|The Greatness of Mathematics||Writings index Home|
Mathematics has been dubbed the Queen of the Sciences, but it is more than that.
Mathematics is unique - different from all other subjects, and all other human activities.
The principal difference is that math stands on its own and doesn't need any "help", or infrastructure.
Literature: Take any great work of literature, or a lesser one for that matter. It might have been written, or it might not.
Music: A great body of music in many different genres exists. None of it had to. And music needs an instrument (or a voice) to perform it. (Although for some geniuses, such as Mozart, perhaps that was just an implementation detail.)
Similarly for art.
Sports: In different parts of the world, different sports are popular and others are ignored. For all those in the latter category, they might as well not exist at all.
Languages: Again, around the world, different languages, with different forms of writing came into being. None of them "had to", and others which don't exist might have taken their place. And while scholars may lament the death of a language, as sometimes happens when the last speaker dies, the universe (and everyone else) carries on just fine.
Words have the meanings we attach to them, but if, at the right time, someone had assigned a different word to a particular concept, that would have been fine.
The Law: different places have different laws.
In the case of all of those, individual acts or creations which did happen might not have, and all the things that didn't happen might have!
In the case of the sciences, things are not as arbitrary - there are natural laws.
But who's to say they are the only ones.
Certainly, in biology, species go extinct, and new ones emerge. Some day, far off in space we might discover completely new forms of life, born of an entirely different set of conditions from those on Earth.
They keep discovering (or perhaps making) new chemical elements - the set is not fixed.
Even physics is based on the universe we have.
And then there is math.
It stands alone.
It didn't need humans to 'discover' or understand it - it was there all along.
And even if the entire universe didn't exist, 2 + 2 would still equal 4, and the Pythagorean Theorem would still be true, whether anyone knew it or not.
That is what makes mathematics great, always has, and always will.