The Role of Mathematics in the Destruction of Communities, and What we Can Do to Reverse this Process, Including Using Mathematics

Since the days of Francis Bacon, the father of European science, who articulated the purpose of science as having “the power to conquer and to subdue [nature]”, people (especially the educated) have lived in disharmony with nature. Mathematics – the “queen of sciences” – played a main role in “subduing and conquering” nature. In recent times, conquering and subduing physical nature was extended to human nature and human communities. For 12 years, education seduces students to live in a make-believe world and become active participants in the harm done to themselves, their communities, and to physical nature – believing all the time the claim that all is done for their own good!1 As Wendell Berry (1990) says, harm that was done to the world prior to modern times was done out of ignorance or weakness; today, the “rape and plunder” of the world is done with full awareness and conscious intentions. The role of the sciences and mathematics is central in this process. For Berry, these conscious acts are a “new thing under the sun”. According to him, the main division in the world today is between those who work hard to protect life and those who (for greed and control) are consciously destroying it. Mathematics faces this parting of paths: it can contribute to protecting life or destroying it. This article is a personal reflection on one experience in such parting of paths: the Palestinian experience. 

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