# Are There Genuine Mathematical Explanations Of Physical Phenomena?

## Document Type

Article

## Publication Date

4-1-2005

## Published In

Mind

## 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.

## Recommended Citation

Alan Richard Baker.
(2005).
"Are There Genuine Mathematical Explanations Of Physical Phenomena?".
*Mind.*
Volume 114,
Issue 454.
223-238.
DOI: 10.1093/mind/fzi223

https://works.swarthmore.edu/fac-philosophy/48

## Comments

Reprinted in: (2017).

Philosophy of Mathematics.