"Prove it!" and paradox

On Friday, an interview with author and physicist Janna Levin was posted in the latest Speaking of Faith installment, "Mathematics, Truth and Purpose."

What conclusions about free will and human purpose that can be drawn given what we know mathematically about the cosmos? Sounds like a strange question, right? But like English, mathematics is another challenging and flexible language used to encounter and describe a world whose reality is not accessible directly. And like English, its discoveries beggar belief.

In addition to her work in cosmology seeking to understand the ultimate shape of the universe - she suggests that it is indeed finite - Levin is the author of the novel "A Madman Dreams of Turning Machines," in which the nature of knowledge is explored through the lives and work of Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing. There are, as Gödel was able to show, things that are true that can never be proven so.

I also appreciate Levin's assertion in this exchange with writer Jonathan Lethem (also made available at Speaking of Faith) that science is one of last places where beauty if forthrightly and with a straight face acknowledged. Artists, who deal in metaphor, rarely exclaim "that's beautiful!" to another artist.