Saturday, February 18, 2017
Exhibit Hall (Hynes Convention Center)
Danielle Mihram, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Background: We examine the acceptability of certain academic disciplines as both art and science. Methods: We review the literature of academia, science, and history to do so. The dictionary-directed definition of ‘Science’ is that human activity devoted to the search for the very explanation for (i.e., for the truth about) any particular naturally occurring phenomenon. The society devoted to the teaching of mathematics [the Mathematical Association of America (MAA)], founded 1915/6 in Ohio, is currently celebrating its centenary. In that 20th-Century year, LT More (University of Cincinnati’s Dean of Science and Arts), on limitations of science, implied the uniqueness of mathematics among the disciplines: viz., mathematicians provide statements which are irrefutably true, an attribute sought as a hope for any practicing scientist. He also then noted that mathematics is not science, since it deals only with abstractions (points, numbers, circles, e.g.), not real-world phenomena. Results: British 19th-Century University “Calendars” list mathematics as a language, an art, not a science. Indeed, as late as the 1950s, an undergraduate degree in Mathematics was a “Bachelor of Arts”; but, beginning in the mid-1950s, probably due to the Russian Sputnik missile, a “Bachelor of Science” degree became an alternative for the graduating student. Nonetheless, our AAAS had chosen to list as the first Section among scientific disciplines: Mathematics (Section A). More had thus also concluded that mathematics is itself not sufficient for Science. Historians of Science can also observe that mathematics is not necessary for Science [to wit: Darwin (1865); plus, Nobel Laureate KZ Lorenz’s 1973 note on the fashionable fallacy of dispensing with description (in favour of mathematics); and, also sociobiologist E. O. Wilson’s 2013 comments both that pioneers in science only rarely make discoveries by extracting ideas from pure mathematics and, cogently, that superior mathematical ability is similar to fluency in foreign languages]. Conclusion: These historical perspectives have now been confirmed in January 2012 by a “Notice” for the American Mathematical Society: Mathematics is not science since their respective validity criteria differ: internal vs. external confirmations. Scientists, artists, linguists, and mathematicians should be aware that, when categorizing disciplines, academic curricula should provide better and appropriate distinctions.