Science and Mathematics

David Lindley, The End of Physics. The Myth of a Unified Theory, 1993.

Prologue. The Lure of Numbers.

In 1960, the Hungarian-American physicist Eugene Wigner published an essay entitled “The unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences.”

What puzzled Wigner puzzled many others, including Albert Einstein: “How can it be that mathatics,” he once asked, “being a product of human thought which is independent of experience, is so admirably appropriate to the object of reality?”

There is a temptingly simple explanation for the fact that science is mathematical in nature: it is because we give the name of science to those areas of intellectual inquiry that yield to mathematical analysis.

The puzzle becomes a tautology: mathematics is the language of science because we reserve the name “science” for anything that mathematics can handle. If it’s not mathematical to some degree at least, it isn’t really science.