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Drowning Hippasus:
Reductionism and Religiously-Based Explanations

Posted By Joe Carter On November 7, 2005 @ 4:07 am In Neocalvinism | Comments Disabled

[Note: This is the third post in a discussion on the role of religious beliefs in theory-making. The other two can be found here [1] and here.]
In ancient Greece a religious controversy once broke out over the square root of two. The Pythagoreans, a Hellenic organization of thinkers who believed that all things were essentially reducible to numbers, had an irrational aversion to irrational numbers. Because they believed that numbers represented a realm of invisible mathematical entities upon which the visible world depended, the Pythagoreans insisted that there could be no genuinely irrational numbers and attempted to keep such knowledge a secret. Legend has it that Hippasus of Metapontum, a disciple of Pythagoras, was at sea when he discovered that the square root of 2 is irrational. His fellow Pythagoreans, outraged by the finding, threw him overboard.
Today, of course, we are more enlightened and rarely drown mathematicians who disagree with a theory (instead he ‘


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