by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
According to a new textbook written by a professor at the University of Exeter, learning mathematics can cause “collateral damage” to society because it “provides a training in ethics-free thought.”
“Reasoning without meanings provides a training in ethics-free thought,” Paul Ernest writes in “The Ethics of Mathematics: Is Mathematics Harmful?” — a chapter of his book The Philosophy of Mathematics Education Today.
In an abstract for the book, Ernest claims that although he does “acknowledge that mathematics is a widespread force for good,” “there is significant collateral damage caused by learning mathematics.” …
… First, he argues, the styles of thinking involved with mathematics are “detached” and “calculated” ones, which value “rules, abstraction, objectification, impersonality, unfeelingness, dispassionate reason, and analysis” — which he claims “can be damaging when applied beyond mathematics to social and human issues.” …
… Some things in life are objective and rational, and that’s perfectly okay. The idea that learning about something that doesn’t involve emotions would somehow make people emotionless overall makes absolutely no sense. After all, there are plenty of things we learn as humans that are strictly practical. For example: I learned how to brush my teeth without any sort of discussion about ethics or feelings whatsoever, and I continue to brush my teeth without having any feelings about it to this day. Has that affected my ability to have feelings in other areas of my life? Absolutely not, and neither did learning about math.