Re: definition of science

From: Don Winterstein <>
Date: Tue Apr 26 2005 - 09:51:45 EDT

Dave Siemens wrote:

"...Many mathematicians are persuaded that they
discover rather than construct such relationships...."

Many mathematicians indeed believe their results somehow exist independently of human minds and are discovered rather than invented, but they continue to recognize that these results involve symbols exclusively and not objects of the physical world. Some of the mathematicians I've talked with have been horrified to think that their beautiful relationships might be considered for application to real world problems! There is a lot of math that as yet has no application to the physical world.

The surprising thing to many physicists, formerly also A. Einstein, is how well certain physical relationships are described by certain math relationships. So there seems to be some deep connection between the world of pure symbol (math) and the physical world. ("God is a mathematician.") This connection underlies our ability to understand our world, especially as we expand the math meaning of symbol to include word, concept or idea. That some physical relations are accurately described by abstract math relations tantalizingly supports the idea that human understanding is sometimes close to absolute understanding and hence more than just metaphor.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: D. F. Siemens, Jr.<>
  Cc:<> ;<>
  Sent: Monday, April 25, 2005 2:08 PM
  Subject: Re: definition of science

  On Mon, 25 Apr 2005 16:31:51 -0400 "Alexanian, Moorad"
  <<>> writes:
> The definition of science I gave is metaphysically sound. The
> question is if it excludes from science something that is clearly
> scientific. I do not think so. The definition is not reductionist
> since it includes the nonphysical aspect of reality. All human
> concepts, e.g., mathematical, values, meaning, are abstractions with
> no physical reality. Witness even the number pi, which is a purely
> human conception.
> Moorad
> ________________________________
  The last sentence presents a curious dogma. It is purely nominalistic, a
  view not universally shared. Many mathematicians are persuaded that they
  discover rather than construct such relationships. Of course, one may
  recognize that all terms are human inventions, but this does not mean
  that anything we talk about has no reality beyond our concepts.

  If pi is "a purely human conception," it follows that the rest of math is
  equally so. Consequently, the equations that describe physical reality do
  not. It's all rather arbitrary, and there is no lunatic fringe of
Received on Tue Apr 26 09:54:53 2005

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