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E.O. Wilson, Nowak et al. wrote a paper on altruism…

E.O. Wilson, Nowak et al. wrote a paper on altruism that triggered a huge angry reaction (particularly by science journalists Steven Pinker and Richard Dawkins). The paper (linked) contained words with a mathematical backup.

More than 100 biologists signed a petition asking for retraction. And the math was not remotely addressed. Yet if the paper is wrong, math should be 1) wrong (which can be shown incontrovertibly) or 2) inadequate for the task, which is trivial to show by expansion of functional/parameter space, as I’ve been doing with economics. (But here the math was addressing flaws in the math that was behind the theories supported by Dawkins and others). Neither of these 2 were done. Having seen the bitter attacks on & elsewhere, including comments by biologists that Wilson was “senile”, I spent some time scrutinizing the math: it is impeccable, though unsophisticated by mathematical finance standards. The beauty of mathematics is that it is *impossible* to be misunderstood.

They were attacked in a verbalistic manner. In other words, with BS. I view Richard Dawkins with intellectual revulsion as the perfect bullshit artist on the planet.

The lesson is obvious. Fughedabout supplemental material and backup. Put the math in the front, words in the back, particularly when the words are only there to explain the mathematical reasoning. Alas, it is necessary. Math is distortion-free, which repels the distorters…

(Note the earlier idea came from Yaneer Bar Yam and his idea can be related to the one in antifragile that averages miss Jensen’s inequality. A function of a mean is different from the mean of a function).

PS- I am publishing a paper about the Pinker fallacy with his verbalistic/BS interpretation of risk of war and “drop” in violence. The math comes first, words later. The same with the 2nd version of the precautionary principle.

PPS- When I wrote Antifragile, which is defined as a locally convex reaction to a nondegenerate stressor, the technical material was in another paper. It turned out to be a mistake as BS artists were arguing about “resilience” (which is nonconvex), etc. The math is first, even if it repels readers.

via E.O. Wilson, Nowak et al. wrote a paper on… – Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

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