… The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve….
Why is it that the “the great book of the universe is written in the language of mathematics” (Galileo Galilei)?
In a recent In Our Time programme on Mathematics' Unintended Consequences I heard, from one guest, a personally persuasive explanation. It’s a fundamentally anthropic explanation that goes something like this:
- Entities that can do mathematics arise as a consequence of natural selection.
- Natural selection can only occur in regions of a universe that have interacting and persistent patterns (perhaps including recursion).
- So a universe containing mathematicians will also be a pattern-based universe.
- Mathematics is a process for describing and manipulating patterns.
- Therefore mathematics is a language that can describe pattern-based universes, including our own.
I’m good with that.