David: Do you think mathematics… I mean, you are a mathematician… is it something we are making up?
MN: I believe…
David: Or something we are discovering?
Ard: Or do you think evolution created mathematics?
MN: I think mathematicians unveil eternal truth, you know, that exists independent of evolution. So you have something like prime numbers, numbers, they are just principles that exist. So, for me, the material world is an instantiation of fundamental principles.
David: Right. But if I’ve got those, then surely I don’t need God. I mean, in other words, there are these truths and they are the things which make the world the way it is, and they’re there before I thought about them, so I’m discovering them…
MN: But those fundamental principles, these eternal fundamental principles, for me, that is God.
David: Ah, okay.
Ard: Okay, here’s a question: if someone says to you, ‘Well mathematics is really science,’ what would you say?
MN: No. Mathematicians can make statements that are independent of any particular universe.
Ard: So give me an example.
MN: Well, some properties of prime numbers.
MN: There are infinitely many prime numbers.
Ard: And so these are true, they don’t need scientific experiments to…
MN: Yeah, they don’t need any particular universe to be instantiated to make them true.
Ard: And do you think there’s a parallel between these mathematical truths, which don’t need scientific proof, and theological truths or philosophical truths?
MN: Yes, very much, philosophical ways…
Ard: Or theological truths.
MN: So, for me, philosophy and theology, that’s very close, and the most convincing way to think about theology is always the philosophical one.
Ard: And so do you think that if something, just like mathematics, is true independent of scientific experiments, something like that could be true for philosophical truths or theological truths?
David: Or moral truths.
Ard: Or moral truths.
MN: Yes, definitely. So, for example, when Andrew Wiles proved Fermat’s last theorem, then it doesn’t need a scientific experiment to confirm it: it was just, this is now true.
Ard: Yeah. And could there also be, then, moral truths, for example, or other theological truths that are true the way Fermat’s last theorem is true?
MN: Yeah, again, you have to ask yourself, what is the meaning of goodness and where does goodness come from? And I would agree with Plato, that goodness is a form – is the highest form: it’s the form that illuminates all other forms, because all other forms that exist, it’s good that they exist.
Ard: And so goodness is something that exists independent of us?
MN: As the highest form, yes.
Ard: As the highest form. That’s really interesting.
David: If you see these truths as being out there, then when we think of them, the way a lot of people think is that, ‘I’m making this up,’ or ‘I’ve grasped it.’ If they’re there, then it’s more of an encounter, isn’t it? That you’re encountering something.
MN: So Socrates and Plato, they asked themselves, what is learning? And they came to the conclusion that all learning is only remembering.
David: In the sense that there is something there that was waiting for you.
MN: Yeah, in some sense. And also Augustine asks the question, actually, how do these concepts that you understand enter your brain? So if he understands the sense of touch, the sense of smell, the sense of seeing, of hearing, and there’s a certain concept, you know.
MN: And he then says, for that concept, maybe love, maybe goodness, it doesn’t come to you through any of those senses.
David: And where does it come from Martin?
MN: From God.
Ard: From God.
MN: From the fundamental principles. It’s like from the fundamental principles.
Ard: Martin and I agree.
David: Yeah, I know, I’m feeling in the minority. I don’t think I got mine from God, but I don’t know.
Ard: I think.. I think you did.
David: I know you do.