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International Institute of Advanced Studies in Mathematical Theology

Proposal to enable faith-based governance through mathematical theology.

International Institute of Advanced Studies in Mathematical Theology
Potential strategic importance of mathematical theology
Mathematical theology: future science of confidence in belief
Symbolic location of the initiative

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The strategic importance of faith-based governance is evident from the conflicts sustained by it as well as by its continuing significance in the politics of dominant superpowers. Despite the claims of science and atheists, adherence to extraordinary world views is increasing, as documented by editors of The Economist, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge (God Is Back: how the global revival of faith is changing the world, 2009). It is even argued that "God-based thinking" is destroying the economy (Joshua Holland, How Conservative Politicians Wait for God to Fix the Economy, With Frightening Results, AlterNet, 26 September 2011).

The relation of religion to  science-based secular world views sustains another form of intractable conflict. It might also be said that the resource problems of the world are the consequence of various understandings of the scriptural injunction to "multiply" (Genesis 1:28).

It is however also evident the extent to which strategic proposals for governance of the complex challenges of society are now promoted with the expectation that all concerned are called upon to take such proposals "on faith"  and to "believe" in their positive outcome -- despite widespread expressions of concern regarding "breakdown of trust". This is exemplified in the case of responses to the current financial crisis. Conventional deprecation of "faith" as intangible and nebulous has been radically challenged by the central role of "confidence" and "trust" -- usefully understood as synonyms -- with respect to the financial system. Collective initiatives of any kind are also now typically formulated in terms of sets of principles and values, which participants are expected to believe, to promote and to embody.

Given the relative lack of impact of inter-faith dialogue on the bloody conflicts with which the world is confronted daily, the strategic argument here is whether the more fundamental differences could not be more productively explored through mathematical theology. This follows from the number-governed manner in which fundamental beliefs tend to be framed by religions and the "higher dimensionality" to which they variously aspire.

The proposal here for an "International Institute of Advanced Studies in Mathematical Theology" is a deliberate provocation. It is a call for a global reframing of the conventional understanding of each of the terms in this well-known institutional pattern of academic activity. This is seen as a means of exploring new ways of enabling the faith-based governance upon which all are now seemingly called to depend.

The purpose here is to explore the range of issues which might determine how such an initiative could be formed (especially in a mathematical sense), what themes it might include, how it might be organized, who might be interested, how it might function, where it might be located, and the like. In a sense such a scoping exercise might itself suffice to stimulate exploration of mathematical theology within other institutional contexts.

The question raised by this presentation is what a variety of others might bring to the table in scoping out the possibility, whether or not there is any commitment to making it a reality. More generally, what is the imaginative initiative that a fruitful interaction between mathematicians and theologians could engender and render sustainable through any adaptive cycle?  Perhaps even more intriguing is what might the young  imagine that these disciplines would engender -- as an attractor within which they in turn could aspire to strive.

Concern with the "divine", with which theology is conventionally preoccupied, is radically reframed in this exploration in order to encompass that to which people may well attribute the term "divine" in their lives -- in which they believe most profoundly, or in which others (including politicians and economists) call upon them to have faith. Can more sophisticated mathematics offer insights into the nature of that engagement with belief and the confidence it offers -- as previously discussed (Human Values as Strange Attractors, 1993). Are such insights as relevant to the most spiritual as to those who associate their most profound beliefs with sport, friends, music, gardening, dance, wine, an ideology -- or possibly with the exemplars of that world?

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