Mind 114 (454):223-238 (2005)

Authors
Alan Baker
Swarthmore College
Abstract
Many explanations in science make use of mathematics. But are there cases where the mathematical component of a scientific explanation is explanatory in its own right? This issue of mathematical explanations in science has been for the most part neglected. I argue that there are genuine mathematical explanations in science, and present in some detail an example of such an explanation, taken from evolutionary biology, involving periodical cicadas. I also indicate how the answer to my title question impacts on broader issues in the philosophy of mathematics; in particular it may help platonists respond to a recent challenge by Joseph Melia concerning the force of the Indispensability Argument.
Keywords Mathematics   Explanation   Philosophy of Science   Indispensability Arguments
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DOI 10.1093/mind/fzi223
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References found in this work BETA

Realism, Mathematics and Modality.Hartry Field - 1988 - Philosophical Topics 16 (1):57-107.
The Indispensability of Mathematics.Mark Colyvan - 2001 - Oxford University Press.
Indispensability and Practice.Penelope Maddy - 1992 - Journal of Philosophy 89 (6):275.
Platonism and Anti-Platonism in Mathematics.Mark Balaguer - 1998 - Bulletin of Symbolic Logic 8 (4):516-518.

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Citations of this work BETA

What Makes a Scientific Explanation Distinctively Mathematical?Marc Lange - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (3):485-511.
Mathematical Explanation in Science.Alan Baker - 2009 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (3):611-633.
There is No Easy Road to Nominalism.M. Colyvan - 2010 - Mind 119 (474):285-306.
On the Explanatory Role of Mathematics in Empirical Science.Robert W. Batterman - 2010 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 61 (1):1-25.

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