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Monday, August 19, 2013

Math As Science


Waxing a bit philosophical today....

The debate over whether or not mathematics is a science goes back a long while. I won't address that argument specifically (since I think the underlying question of what is "a science" is unresolved and unresolvable -- the author below believes there exist "standard" operating definitions for science that work -- I don't believe those definitions can be used consistently, precisely, or unambiguously (and that has nothing to do with 'post-modernism' per se, as the writer would imply, but simply with the imprecise nature of language and limits/uncertainties of human cognition -- some biology IS science, some ISN'T; same for physics, geology, psychology, medicine, etc.).

But with that said, I did enjoy the approach and content of this 2008 piece on the subject, which touches upon several topics:

http://www.arachnoid.com/is_math_a_science/

In the end the author concludes:
"Nature is innately mathematical, and she speaks to us in mathematics. We only have to listen.
"Because nature is mathematical, any science that intends to describe nature is completely dependent on mathematics. It is impossible to overemphasize this point, and it is why Carl Friedrich Gauss called mathematics 'the queen of the sciences'."
 I have no qualms calling math 'the queen of the sciences' -- am just not sure that that means anything more than that math is the most logically precise/rigorous and least ambiguous of the large, continuous (not discrete) gradient of human thought processes.

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