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Science 303 (5659): 790-793

Copyright © 2004 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Uses and Abuses of Mathematics in Biology

Robert M. May

Abstract: In the physical sciences, mathematical theory and experimental investigation have always marched together. Mathematics has been less intrusive in the life sciences, possibly because they have until recently been largely descriptive, lacking the invariance principles and fundamental natural constants of physics. Increasingly in recent decades, however, mathematics has become pervasive in biology, taking many different forms: statistics in experimental design; pattern seeking in bioinformatics; models in evolution, ecology, and epidemiology; and much else. I offer an opinionated overview of such uses—and abuses.

Zoology Department, Oxford University, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK.

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