An argument between Dawkins & Wilson

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal features an argument between Richard Dawkins and EO Wilson, with a cameo by Michael Lynch.

*I fear this may be a very inside evolutionary biology joke which greatly oversimplifies the positions held by all three individuals.

This is not a Prisoner’s Dilemma, or is it?

A little bit ago, Cory Doctorow posted a story from Inside Higher Ed about students organizing to beat the curve in a Johns Hopkins computer science class. The professor, Peter Fröhlich, scales grades based on the highest grade1. The students all refused to take the test, making the highest grade a 0. Thus, a 0 was an A, meaning they all got As.

…students in Fröhlich’s…classes decided to test the limits of the policy, and collectively planned to boycott the final. Because they all did, a zero was the highest score in each of the three classes, which, by the rules of Fröhlich’s curve, meant every student received an A…The students waited outside the rooms to make sure that others honored the boycott, and were poised to go in if someone had. – Zack Burdyk, “Dangerous Curves” from Inside Higher Ed

Doctorow labeled this as a solution to the Prisoner’s Dilemma. A brief perusal of the 113 comments on his post will convince you that the internet thinks that this is NOT an example of the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Continue reading “This is not a Prisoner’s Dilemma, or is it?”

Dawkins vs Wilson, Nothing to See Here

Hostilities between EO Wilson and Richard Dawkins have heated back up with Dawkins’ scathing review of Wilson’s new book, The Social Conquest of Earth. People seem to be laboring under the delusion that the current spat between EO Wilson and Richard Dawkins reflects a throwback to a traditional academic cage match between intellectual giants defending their theories with acerbic rhetoric.

In now thoroughly refuted 2010 paper in Nature, Wilson and colleagues attempted to overturn much of the modern understanding of natural selection theory and altruism, known as inclusive fitness theory. Wilson’s new book (apparently, I have not been graced with a copy) continues this line of argument. Dawkins got testy with Wilson then and now:

. . .unfortunately one is obliged to wade through many pages of erroneous and downright perverse misunderstandings of evolutionary theory.
-Richard Dawkins

The problem is, as David Sloan Wilson pointed out in 2010, the debate isn’t about the evolutionary theory that experts currently recognize. This debate has less similarity to a rigorous debate between the intellectual giants of their field and more to a couple of old guys arguing whether the Yankees or the Mets are better based on their vague memories of the 1972 season. Continue reading “Dawkins vs Wilson, Nothing to See Here”

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