Proof

Family melodrama. A brilliant mathematician (Gwenyth Paltrow) must take care of her brilliant mathematician father (Anthony Hopkins) who is losing his mind with Alzheimers. This is a very touching story that also includes the ubiquitous Jake Gyllenhall as the love interest. Well, it started out like the play it was based on, a lot of talk that sounded staged and was redundant. We hear Gwenyth recount her entire last evening events with her sister that we already saw. And it is a bit difficult to believe Paltrow as a genius, but that is the genius of this movie because the dramatic question is Did she write the brilliant notebook full of breakthrough mathematics during her father’s brief remission or did he? Once the plot kicked in, the play-likeness faded and I was able to enjoy it more. And of course, the whole idea of how can she prove she wrote the proof is a reflection of the difficulty of modernity in which we live. What is proof? Her appeal to Jake is to trust her. Just as she has learned to trust him. A faint echo of the truth that all reason is based on a faith commitment or trust in the underlying uniformity of nature, something we assume but simply cannot prove. In other words, in order to our Reason to be legitimate, certain preconditions of reality must exist or our reasoning is unintelligible. And one of those is the law-likeness or regularity of nature. If nature is not uniform, that is, lawlike then we cannot use reason because in fact one moment the law of logic we appeal to may be valid, one moment it may not. Only if we assume that logic is always true can we even use it to prove anything. But it can only be a proof if nature is law-like, that is, the same everywhere at all times, past, present and future. But since we are finite and cannot be everywhere in the universe at all times to see or know that logic works, then we are ASSUMING or presupposing that it does outside of our little ignorant tiny corner of knowledge in a vast universe beyond our comprehension. In a non-Christian worldview we simply cannot know that the future will be like the past, therefore we cannot know that nature is uniform and will continue to operate the same in the future in a way that we can reliably count on it in our reasoning. The appeal to inductive reasoning of science as being valid because “that’s how it has always operated in the past” is begging the question. So our entire edifice of Reason and science is in fact founded on faith – faith in the uniformity of nature—just as Augustine said, “I believe in order to understand.” And I think that the Hopkins character is a great incarnation of the insanity which is the ultimate end of a modern Enlightenment metaphysic that reduces reality or truth to mathematical theorem.

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