Physics envy  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

In science, the term physics envy is used to criticize a tendency (perceived or real) of softer sciences and liberal arts to try to obtain mathematical expressions of their fundamental concepts, as an attempt to move them closer to harder sciences, particularly physics.

The success of physics in "mathematicizing" itself, particularly since Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica, is generally considered remarkable and often disproportionate compared to other areas of inquiry. "Physics envy" refers to the envy (perceived or real) of scholars in other disciplines for the mathematical precision of fundamental concepts obtained by physicists. It is an accusation raised against disciplines (typically against soft sciences and liberal arts such as literature, philosophy, psychology, social sciences) when these academic areas try to express their fundamental concepts in terms of mathematics, which is seen as an unwarranted push for reductionism.

Evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr discusses the issue of the inability to reduce biology to its mathematical basis in his book What Makes Biology Unique?.

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