We ecologists need something to get all worked up over!

Still another in the series of “what an outrage” articles over E. O. Wilson’s statements in the Wall Street Journal a couple weeks back, wherein he simply tried to make the point that you do not necessarily need advanced mathematical understanding in order to make valuable contributions in biology. The purpose of this point was to encourage young people not to ditch possible biology careers just because they’re intimidated by certain aspects of math. One ecology blogger is on his third or fourth post on this topic alone, replete with some really hostile reader comments toward Wilson, complete with profanity. Comments pointing out obvious factual errors in said blogger’s interpretation of what Wilson said, such as say, the title of Wilson’s WSJ piece, which does not carry the same meaning as said blogger’s imagined title, are deleted however. I’m not even going to link to that stuff; it’s idiotic. Here’s a well-expressed viewpoint not tinged by such overt hostility toward the man.

You’ll find that most of these articles have the obligatory “Wilson’s a great scientist for sure, but…” in them somewhere. And also some examples in evolution and ecology where some high level math has indeed been important in advancing the science (but not those in which it has not been). Yeah that’s an unbiased perspective, I’m overwhelmingly convinced by that kind of argument. If you really have some chutzpah, as in the first link above, you can even use Darwin himself, the very poster child demonstrating how an extremely significant biological finding can occur in the absence of any advanced math at all!!

And why do all of these people even care so much about what Edward Wilson says in a newspaper piece in the first place? Don’t they have better things to do with their time? And since I do, that’s all I’m saying on it, which is already way too much.

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5 thoughts on “We ecologists need something to get all worked up over!

  1. Well put, Jim. I still don’t understand why this was such a big deal. It’s all just a pissing contest that morphed into a blogging bandwagon; everyone wanted their voice to be heard (and their website to gain readers).

    The irony is that E.O. Wilson probably doesn’t even know about all the internet-based mudslinging… and if he does, he surely doesn’t give a damn about it anyway. Why would he? And why should we?

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