Mathematics and White Supremacy



(The FreeThinking Theist)


August 25, 2020

Historians will look back on the this past year in disbelief. Indeed, it seems that 2020 is on the “wrong side of history.” First the wildfires in Australia, then Kobe Bryant dies in a helicopter crash, then the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the globe, then humanity is sentenced to house arrest (aka, “quarantine”), then Tim Stratton graduates with a Ph.D., then mobs of violent rioters flood the streets, and then nearly everything became “racist.”

Speaking of the term “racist,” this previously feared label seems to have lost its meaning today because so many things, according to the woke critical race theorist have now supposedly become “racist.” For example, hard work is racist, self-reliance is racist, delayed gratification is racist, being on time is racist, politeness is racistsleep is racistgrammar is racistmarriage is racist, the nuclear family is racistscience is racist, and even logic is racist.

James Lindsay notes why it seems to be impossible to have a logical or reasonable conversation with a “woke social justice warrior”

“reason, rationality, science, evidence, [and] epistemic adequacy . . . are not their methods and they reject them.”

Not only does the Left reject reason, rationality, and science, they are now expressing a rejection of basic mathematics. Recently a young Black Lives Matter activist describing herself as a teacher, Ph.D. student, and “social justice change agent,” tweeted the following:

“The idea of 2+2 equaling 4 is cultural,” a product of “western imperialism/colonialism.” 

That’s another way of saying that “mathematics is the product of old white males.” In fact, if you think 2+2= 4 . . . you better “check your white privilege!”

Not to be outdone, a college math professor tweeted her “mind-numbingly postmodern-woke-Marxist sentiment” that math is not “in any way objective” and any such idea “reeks of white supremacist patriarchy.” These Leftist ideologues are claiming that mathematical truths are not objective and necessary. An objective truth statement corresponds to reality and refers to something about the actual world that would be true apart from human opinion. Something is necessary — or necessarily true — when it would still be true even if reality were different. 

Thus, when these activists state that math is not objective or that it is merely the product of “old white males,” they are tacitly affirming the absurd notion that mathematical equations are merely in the eye of the beholder. This means that “2+2=4” might be true for you, but it does not have to be true for someone else. If that were the case I would have aced math, algebra, and geometry when I was in high school. In fact, I could have been the world’s greatest mathematician. Obviously, this is not how things work in the real world. 

Could Math be Racist? 

With reality in mind, it is hard to believe that we have come to a point where we must have this conversation. These ideas are not merely sweeping the streets of the nation, as mentioned above, they are also being purported by college professors at public universities — the same people who are funded by the tax dollars of Americans so that they can educate our youth! These ideas have infected the minds of young people at an alarming rate. As Adam Ford eloquently stated:

“Postmodern woke Marxism is a viral infection of the brain. And it’s contagious.”

Indeed, the most dangerous virus on the planet does not seem to be COVID-19, but this virus of the mind that begins when humans stop taking their thoughts captive (2 Cor 10:5) and instead are taken captive by irrational thoughts (Col 2:8). To make my point consider this question: 

Could 2+2 = 4?

Not only could 2+2 = 4, but it actually describes reality. In fact, it must be the case that 2+2=4. Am I being “racist” for saying such a thing? Not at all, because it is necessary that two things plus two other things always — and only — equals a total of four things. This is true independent of the color of one’s skin, independent of who first discovered this objective truth, and even independent from the existence of humanity. 

Try it for yourself. Pick any object, then pick another object and place both of these objects on the table. How many objects have you just placed on the table? You can call it whatever you’d like, but the answer is “two.” The cardinal number does not change even though the word describing the amount of objects can change. One can refer to the amount of objects as “dos,” “deux,” “zwei,” “mbili,” “twee,” or “два,” (pronounced “dvah”). In English the number of objects on the table is “two.” 

Now do it again. Pick another object, and then an additional object and place these objects on the table along with the two other objects that were previously placed on the table. How many objects are now on the table? Again, you can call it whatever you’d like, but in English the total number of objects now placed on the table is “four.” 

Possibility and Necessity

Now, imagine any other possible set of circumstances. This could be a set of circumstances you have previously experienced, a circumstance you could experience in the future, or a set of circumstances that you could experience, but you do not think you will actually experience. You can imagine a world in which only green people on Mars exist and humans do not exist. You can even imagine a state of affairs in which Caucasians do not exist.

Do any of these circumstances change the fact that two things plus two other things always and only equals a total of four things? Of course not, circumstances are impotent to change this simple truth. 

Speaking of truth, as Pilate once asked Jesus: “What is truth?” If Pilate would have stuck around for the answer, Jesus would have explained: “Truth is a statement or proposition that corresponds to reality.” Pilate would then have probably countered: “Well this raises the question — what is reality?” Jesus would have quickly replied: “Reality is the way things are. Reality is everything that actually exists.”

Alternatively, a possible reality – or a possible world – is the way everything could have been. A possible reality does not have to be actual, but it could have been actual. So, if truth corresponds to reality, and reality is the way things are, then a possible reality — or a possible world — is the way things could have been. When we think about possible realities, even realities in which Caucasians never existed or all vanished from the face of the earth, or even a possible world in which only green people on the face of Mars exist, two things plus two other things will always and only equal a grand total of four things. 

Math does not change even if other things do or could change. Consider some other possible worlds: 

A world in which I have a full head of hair, two plus two still equals four. A world in which I am not a theologian, but President of the United States of America, two plus two still equals four. A world in which unicorns exist, two plus two still equals four. A world in which humans never existed and only Martians, Wookies, or Klingons exist, two plus two still equals four.

This is simply what it means to be “necessary” – if something is necessary, it is true or it exists in all possible realities. If something is necessary in a possible circumstance or world, then it is necessary in all possible circumstances or worlds. This includes the possible world also known as the actual world (reality). 

Two plus two always equals four in each and every possible world — even in a world in which I have long blond hair, or in a world where I am President of the United States of America, or in a world in which my skin is green, or in a world where I do not exist. This has nothing to do with “western logic” – but simply, logic.

A modern-day Marxist might respond: “Logic is false because it’s racist!” 

Ryan Wellington has provided a response:

“So if you want to reject logic, then feel free to pink up the smelly rainbow so long as you rip the sparkling without catching a yellow. Because, you know, you never know what you’re going to always know what you’re not going to chair . . . The next time you doubt logic — or that logic is the bedrock of reason — simultaneously slap yourself and don’t slap yourself with a Logic Textbook.”

To even claim that logic is false is to utter gibberish and worse than “baby-talk.” If one rejects logic, then all one is left with is incoherent nonsense and they need not be taken seriously no matter how loud their accusations of racism or how violent they become. The so-called “woke” have devolved into something akin to zombies

Speaking of zombies, if another reality were the real one — say, for example, where zombies exist — “2+2=4” would also be necessary in that reality. Thus, two zombies plus two other zombies always and only equals four zombies. “2+2=4” is a necessary truth that cannot change even if every other contingent thing were changed. Arabic numerals are not the invention of “old white men” (hence the name “Arabic”).[1]

Indeed, as William Lane Craig has argued, mathematics is the language of God!  

Stay reasonable (Isaiah 1:18),

Dr. Tim Stratton


[1] Wikipedia notes: “Although the Hindu–Arabic numeral system (i.e. decimal) was developed by Indian mathematicians around AD 500, quite different forms for the digits were used initially. They were modified into Arabic numerals later in North Africa.”

So much for being the product of “white males.”  

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About the Author



(The FreeThinking Theist)

Timothy A. Stratton (PhD, North-West University) is a professor at Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary. As a former youth pastor, he is now devoted to answering deep theological and philosophical questions he first encountered from inquisitive teens in his church youth group. Stratton is founder and president of FreeThinking Ministries, a web-based apologetics ministry. Stratton speaks on church and college campuses around the country and offers regular videos on FreeThinking Ministries’ YouTube channel.

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