Math + religion = Trouble

January 29, 2008 at 9:21 am | Posted in math, religion | 6 Comments

That’s the title of this article on Mathematics and the existence of God.

One fact quoted in the article is that only 14.6 percent of mathematicians believe in a supreme being. Yet another minority that I’m a part of. Hooray for me.

The article seems to have been spurred by a recent book, Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up, by John Allen Paulos. Supposedly (I haven’t read the book) Paulos refutes the classical arguments for the existence of God in this book.

Well, that’s fine with me. I believe in God/dess not because of logical arguments. My reasons are entirely subjective, and so are both irrefutable and non-transferable. His debunking of logical arguments in favor of God’s existence, in my opinion, does nothing to support non-believers, nor is it a threat to believers. In fact, he himself concedes that there is “no way to conclusively disprove the existence of God.”

This makes perfect sense to me, since the heart of one’s relationship to God is not founded on reason and logic. It should not conflict with reason and logic, but that’s not where it comes from.

I also like the attitude Paulos takes with his book. Quoting from the article:

Even as Paulos works to refute the classical arguments for God’s existence, he does something too few of his mindset do: Chide non-believers for unsportsmanlike conduct.

“It’s repellent for atheists or agnostics,” he admonishes, “to personally and aggressively question others’ faith or pejoratively label it as benighted flapdoodle or something worse. Those who do are rightfully seen as arrogant and overbearing.”


JMM 2008

January 18, 2008 at 9:14 am | Posted in conference, math | Leave a comment

Not counting travel days, we were only in San Diego for 3 days. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, 1/6-1/8. The first was spend going to talks, preparing for my talk on Monday, and meeting up with colleagues/friends I haven’t seen in a while. It would have been the day to meet up with other folks. See a couple of days before I left, my Dad told me I have a relative out there, and my chair told me we have an alum out there. I had grand plans of meeting up with both of them, but it just didn’t work out.

Then Monday came and I gave my talk. Received well, I think, and I went a few minutes over, so there were no questions. The organizer made some comments afterward, though, and asked me for a preprint. So that was good. Now I have time pressure to get that going. I work better with deadlines, so this is good.

Tuesday I started coming down with the flu. I was achy, and starting to get a touch of the fever. I know because I went to the wrong talk and didn’t realize it. It’s over a week later and I’m still trying to kick this last little bit.

Other stuff that happened, I found a great puzzle in the exhibitors’ area. I’ll post the link when I find it. I also met up with various folks from Project NExT, Montclair State University and other places. Jenny & I had some really good food. Good Thai in particular. Oh, I organized the 3rd annual University of Arizona JMM get-together. I think it’s time to organize this ahead of time and get a room and a spot in the program. I wonder if I’ll be going next year.

MAA Seaway Section Meeting

October 29, 2007 at 2:14 am | Posted in conference, math | 2 Comments

Last weekend I and three other faculty brought 10 of our undergrad students to a local conference in Rochester, NY.  None of them had ever been to a conference before, and they liked it.  Joe Gallian was scheduled to speak, and he’s just a great speaker, I had to take them.  They were so psyched, they want to start a student chapter of the MAA.  Very cool!  I’ve got to bug folks this week to figure out how to be an advisor for a math club.  I guess the trip worked a little too well!  A good friend of mine describes these as “problems we like to have.”

Well, I’m sure glad that’s over with

September 4, 2007 at 8:50 pm | Posted in life, math | 4 Comments

I have submitted my application for reappointment. My initial appointment was for 2 years, and the next one is for 2 more years.

“But wait a minute,” you might be saying, “haven’t you been at your job for only a year?” Yes, that’s true. I have another year to go in my current contract. But the departmental committee takes the application for about a month, makes a recommendation to the chair, then he gets it for a few weeks, makes a recommendation to the Dean, he gets it for a few weeks, makes a recommendation to the provost, she gets it for a while, makes a recommendation to the President of the college, THEN he decides if I get 2 more years.

“But wait a minute,” you might be saying, “why do they all need so much time?” This application is not small, folks. This year, my application took up two 1 1/2 inch binders worth of material. It had some adminstrative paperwork, my reflections on the semesters and each class I taught in those semesters, evidence of scholarly activity and service to the department and the college, gobs of course materials, every student evaluation from every course, pages of statistics with circles and arrows … you get the picture. It was a lot. One of the tenured faculty members showed me one of his reappointment applications, and it was in a 2 inch binder, and it was stuffed. Mine was in two 1 1/2 inch binders, and they were just short of full. So it’s comparable.

So the departmental committee needs time to go through all that stuff and write a detailed recommendation on how this application has shown evidence of effectiveness in teaching, and so on and so forth. See, tenure is forever. So they take it seriously. I understand. That’s not to say it wasn’t a royal pain in the keyster, but I think having to read one of those applications might actually be more arduous.

Anyway, it’s done. It’s out of my hands. I submitted it on Monday by 5 p.m., and last night I caught up on sleep. Good thing, too, because I have a departmental committee meeting at 8:30 tomorrow morning.

Yes, the very same departmental committee that will be reviewing my application. The other new faculty member who started last year has his application in, too.

Guess what? Yes, he’s on the departmental committee, too.

Obviously, we won’t be reviewing our own applications — that’s not allowed. We could review each others’ applications, though. That’s been done before, actually, two faculty members were up for reappointment, one for his first reappointment, one for tenure. They were both on the departmental committee, and each participated in the review of the other’s application. They get along very well, and they’re both very professional. The whole department gets along, actually, and they’re all very professional.

However, my colleague and I will be excusing ourselves from the review of each other’s applications. He and I get along very well, but we’re both more comfortable this way.

Oh, another reason why they take so long is that, if they don’t reappoint me, I need time to find a job. And most of the deadlines for applications (~2 years ago when I was on the job market) was about December 15.

Guess when the President notifies facutly if they’ve been reappointed. That’s right, December 15. (*sigh*)

I like working here. And I don’t want to apply for jobs. I hope they reappoint me. Only about 100 days or so until I find out!

So, are you ready for the new semester?

August 24, 2007 at 6:03 pm | Posted in life, math, technology | 1 Comment

It seems everyone is asking me that these days. All this week, I think everybody I’ve run into at the college has asked that of me at least once.

My answer? “No, but I will be.”

That’s kind of why I’m here at the college instead of camping in the Adirondacks, or visiting friends in Jersey, or spending quality time with my sweetie, or just about anywhere else! *sigh*

It’s coming together, though. I’m teaching two sections of Probability & Statistics, and I’m psyched about it. I’m going to be using the computer a lot. Delivering lectures on PowerPoint, grabbing data sets off the web and computing stats on them in class in real time, having students do homework using statistical software, having them submit homework and take (some) quizzes online, etc. I’ll also be doing more hands-on activities in class than I’ve ever done. It’ll be new and different and exciting, at least for me.

I’m also teaching Modern Algebra 1 and an honors section of Linear Algebra 1. They, too, will have more hands-on activities in class. Lots of prep work.

MathFest 2007

August 10, 2007 at 12:58 am | Posted in conference, math | Leave a comment

This entry was written on Thursday 8/2/07

I can do this.

I’m here at the Project NExT workshop in San Jose, California at the beginning of MathFest, the MAA annual summer conference.

I love Project NExT. I describe it in some detail here. There’s lots of workshops about things that concern people in the beginning of their careers as math professors. Lots of great people to make contacts with who are good at what they do and have expertise and a willingness to help and guide folks like me, or who are at the same stage as I am who are asking similar questions and with whom I can have some solidarity.

But perhaps the best thing about it for me this time is the much needed emotional boost. I need to be occasionally reminded that I can do this. I can be great at this. I have a great support network, I have the ability to be great at my job, and even though I feel overwhelmed and that I’m not really making progress and that I’m making so many mistakes, I can be great. They picked me as one of 80 Project NExT fellows from hundreds of applicants, which means I’ve already done good stuff, and that according to these people, these experienced people who include accomplished teachers, published authors, award winning student mentors, and an MAA president, I have the potential to be great.

I’m not saying this to brag. I’m saying this because sometimes I forget it. Sometimes I don’t believe it. But I can do this. I can be excellent at my job. I can work with my colleagues, I can inspire my students, and I can have a fulfilling life besides.

Thank you, Joe, Aparna, Chris, and Gavin.

Red tape

July 19, 2007 at 6:17 pm | Posted in conference, math | Leave a comment

I wonder … if I kept track of the time it takes to fill out all these frickin’ forms, took how much money I end up getting from all the different offices and departments toward my upcoming trip to the Joint Math Meetings, how much money do I make per hour? Divide total funding by mind-numbing hours spent cutting through red tape and dancing the government agency shuffle. If asking for money is a profession, how much does it pay?

Of course, the real question is, could I make more money some other way for the same number of hours? Tutoring? Waiting tables?

One wonders …

Hey, I just thought of something. There are people whose sole job it is to write grants. If it pays to have a person like that, then the getting of grants has to be worth the effort! Hmm …

We’re going to San Diego!

July 19, 2007 at 1:04 pm | Posted in conference, life, math | 2 Comments

I’ve been invited to speak in a special session at the Joint Math Meetings in January in San Diego! Woo-hoo!!

Ok, for those of you who aren’t privvy to the math-world, let me fill y’all in. This is not Nobel Prize level, Fulbright level, … nothing like that. All it means is that I’m a working mathematician, and I’m social enough to talk to people with similar interests. The “special session” is a group of mathematicians working in the same area as my dissertation was in. I was excited to find the special session two years ago at the JMM in San Antonio, and last year I struck up a conversation with the organizers. I also told them my office mate and colleague Arlo was working in the same area, and he got an invite, too.

My school is paying for my trip since I’m presenting, so Jenny and I are chipping in the rest so she can come, too. Finally, my wife is travelling with me to one of these conferences! Of course, I’ll be busy a lot of the time with math stuff and hanging out with math folks. After all, that’s part of what got me this invite in the first place. But there’s some talks she might be interested in, and she’s used to hanging with math folks. She even likes it sometimes. We may see some friends we haven’t seen in a while, too. And then we’ll spend some time alone together doing stuff. The old town is pretty cool from what I remember.

All the academics who read this blog will be completely nonplussed by this news. It’s life as an academic. Pretty ordinary, actually … nothing to write home about. But it’s a first for me — an invited research talk. And so, it’s worth recording to me.

MAA meeting

April 26, 2007 at 12:57 pm | Posted in conference, math | Leave a comment

I’m going to the MAA sectional meeting this weekend. There’ll be lots of stuff on teaching mathematics, meeting regional colleagues, etc. Busy, busy.

Has anyone every been to Oeonta, NY? Anything to do/see in the area besides the Baseball Hall of Fame?

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