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In response to Effortless Technique
Comment author: Barkley__Rosser 24 December 2007 09:28:28PM 0 points [-]


Yes, there is even a stronger motive for computer programmers than for just plain old mathematicians. Real money is involved in shortening those programs.

Regarding Taoism and economics, there has long been a dialectic in Chinese culture and philosophy between Taoism and Confucianism. The former is "the scholar out of power," opposing state power over the economy and society, practiciy we wei and so on; while the latter is "the scholar in power," supporting hierarchy and imperial state power over the economy and society in a supposedly harmonius balance.

In response to Effortless Technique
Comment author: Barkley__Rosser 23 December 2007 10:10:32PM 2 points [-]

Raymond Smullyan used to pull dimes out of my ears when I was a kid, no kidding.

My old man, a friend of Smullyan's (hence his access to my youthful ears), used to argue that a major motivation for mathematicians was "laziness," a desire to figure out ways to solve problems with less effort.

Comment author: Barkley__Rosser 20 December 2007 10:44:17PM 2 points [-]

David Kelley,

Maybe you were the first to use the terms "open and closed systems" within Objectivist discourse and publications, but to claim that you "coined" them is utter nonsense. They have been in widespread usage within systems theory and related fields for well over a half century in works by such people as von Bertalanffy and Vernadsky, some of this actually going back as far as the 1920s, if not earlier. Please...

Comment author: Barkley__Rosser 10 November 2007 08:44:15PM -1 points [-]

J Thomas,

I have already given a definition, which is close to what you will find in Wikipedia, if you go look there. Of course one can argue endlessly (and many do) about whether or not particular cases fit the definition or not.

Adaptive radiation can be viewed as a special case of punctuated equilibrium, although it is one that involves genetic drift, first identified by Sewall Wright in the 1930s, with Mayr emphasizing geographic separation arising from genetic drift as a key form of this. Adaptive radiation in particular refers to a case where a population wanders into an isolated and underpopulated area, where it can "radiate" quickly into a bunch of different niches. The classic case goes all the way back to Darwin, his finches on the Galapagos islands, although the term was cooked up much more recently. But, this is only one way one can get such rapid evolution in a short time.

The crucial figure on genetic drift was Sewall Wright, one of the "trinity" of the 1930s neo-Darwinians, along with Fisher, whom you praised, and Haldane. Wright's position with them is very controversial. He lived to 1988, and I actually knew him and talked with him on several occasions. Gould's account of his interactions with Wright in TSOET is fascinating, a very complicated relationship. I also note that Wright's statistical work had importance for econometrics, with a paper by him and his father being the first to identify the identification problem.

Anyway, J Thomas, I think you are the one who needs to show that you know what the hell you are talking about. No, you do not control when this scrolls off so that "we are waiting." We are waiting, or at least I am, for you or anybody else here to come up with an idea, any idea, that you can claim on any grounds, you describe them, please, more important in evolutionary theory in the last half century. Neither you nor anybody else has done so yet, despite my repeated challenges.

BTW, I have a website, easily found as the second entry by googling my last name. You can go read my own publications on these matters. Have you ever published anything on evolutionary theory? Has Eliezer besides on blogs?

Comment author: Barkley__Rosser 08 November 2007 11:41:05PM -1 points [-]


So, who is your McCabe?


Wise crack.

Comment author: Barkley__Rosser 08 November 2007 10:46:41PM -2 points [-]

I'm back.


I agree that ultimately the empirical issue will be more important than this model versus that model. I am not going to get into the debate about the specific math of your model as others have already done so. If you really think you have a strong and new result, submit it to my journal. The referees will be some of the top mathematical population geneticists in the world.

McCabe was the third coauthor on the piece with Smith and Houser of GMU in the Jan. 2004 JEBO special issue that took the hardest pro-Dawkins line. So, when he says "never never never..." this factoid should be kept in mind.

Also, if you do submit the paper, change the title. Indeed, while "Tragedyy of Group Selection" may get the adrenaline flowing for some readers, it is pretty absurd. Tragedy? Who died or was killed or even just had their marriage break up? (maybe a couple arguing about group selection?). Hitler's racist eugenics was tied to millions being killed in the Holocaust. That was tragedy. Stalin's support of the goofy Lamarkism of Lysenko was tied with millions dying in Soviet famines and many better scientists being thrown in jail for disputing Lysenko. This was a tragedy. Get real, please.

Oh yes. While you suggest that the hypercycle is a "whole 'nother story," I would say not really. There are links, even if the precise equations are somewhat different.


Congrats on the reasonably informative links.


Once you are dealing with hominids, which may be the most important example, indeed "enforcement" may well be important. There is a growing lit on how reciprocal altruism ultimately depends on punishment of free riders, that is, enforcement.

Comment author: Barkley__Rosser 08 November 2007 09:45:41PM -2 points [-]

Ian Nowland,

I do not know where Gould fitted on that scale. I suspect he was in different places at different times.

OTOH, offhand I am not sure what is so "immoral" about #4, per se. Don't lots of people going into the hard sciences want to improve society, such as medical researchers? Certainly it is not surprising that people will think that what improves society is what agrees with their own ideology, even if perhaps you disapprove of their ideology. I think the potential problem here is the main topic of this blog: when people lie about or distort actual scientific findings or research in order to fit in with some ideological agenda. Certainly people have charged Gould with being motivated for parts of his research by his ideology. However, I am not aware of anybody successfully claiming that he actually distorted or lied about findings in the process of doing so. If not, then the charge of "immorality" is way overblown, just like most of Eliezer's charges against him, drawn from sources who were his worst enemies and strongest opponents.

Douglas Knight,

Not sure without further discussion what my "non sequitors" were, but your statement about Gould as a (non) theorist is amazingly empty. How is that you say hs is not an important theorist? While some have labeled it as "just relabeling," or something like that, I have yet to see anybody here offer up even one, much less ten, new ideas in evolutionary theory more important than Gould's of punctuated equilibrium.

I will offer one: coevolution, due to Paul Ehrlich. However, even more than punctuated equilibrium, this is one that one can find strong precursors of in Darwin, big time.

Comment author: Barkley__Rosser 07 November 2007 06:17:24PM 1 point [-]


Maybe I will get back to you on that point, and maybe I will not. I am about to leave town, and I spend 30 hours a week editing a journal, along with being a full professor of economics. This is why I turned down Robin's invitation to become a co-blogger here. Too damned busy. This is not meant to be a copout or an escape. I already spent a couple of hours I did not have last night digging through Gould again on your other posting.

I will note that the special issue I edited includes a wide variety of views and that there remain sharply contrasting opinions regarding the bottom line. Interestingly, the hardest line defenders of the Dawkins position (he was invited to participate, as were Tooby and Maynard Smith, although they declined), was a paper by GMU's Vernon Smith and Dan Houser, two economists. The political scientist, Axelrod, was also defending that view. The mathematical population geneticists were defending multi-level evolution, at least in principle under the right conditions.

For the record, I think you are a smart guy. If I have the time, I shall get into responding to your specific question. But I gotta go now.

Comment author: Barkley__Rosser 07 November 2007 06:11:54PM 0 points [-]

michael vassar,

Yes, but that "common sense" was widely ignored by most evolutionary theorists before Gould pointed it out. His approach is now in all the textbooks. He has also emphasized against some of his less fair critics that his original papers on this were specifically addressed to the paleontologists.

Another part of it, not so obvious and definitely not part of the general lexicon, is the idea of long periods of stasis. This was a point not at all emphasized by anybody prior to Eldredge and Gould, and was the real core of the original aspect of it.

So, what are the top ten ideas of the last half century ahead of it and where are they in the textbooks?

Regarding Darwin, the picture is muddled in that his remarks that look open to p.e. appear in later edtions of Origin of the Species, but not in the first one, where a more hardline gradualist scenario is presented.

Comment author: Barkley__Rosser 06 November 2007 11:09:38PM -2 points [-]


Well, the statement from Tooby that you quote says exactly nothing precise. He refers to a "tangle," but nothing specific. Then he gives his shopping list of evolutionary biologists whom he considers more important/worthy than Gould. Fine, some of those certainly are and some others may be. This is hardly some slam dunk comment, but reeks all too much of the jealousy of the less popular for the more popular. I might as well get all bent out because Tyler Cowen and Bryan Caplan have written bigger selling books than I have.

Regarding Williams' argument, the issue is indeed the locus of evolution. Saying that it is the gene that gets passed on does not cut it. The question is the locus of activity that determines which genes get passed on. In the case of Dawkins and Williams this locus was generally (pretty much always in the case of Dawkins) the individual. Williams actually allowed for higher level selection as an occasional possibility. However, he ruled it out in general, and did so on essentially prisoner's dilemma, game theoretic grounds, the basis of Maynard Smith's position as well, the developer of the concept of the evolutionarily stable strategy. Maynard Smith was also very impressed with how easy it is for individuals to undermine cooperative strategies.

So, now we know better. Groups that cooperate can outcompete and replace groups that degenerate into internal back-stabbing and cheating. The evolution of such cooperation remains one of the really big questions out there. It turns out that the Crow-Hamilton-Price equations in fact give conditions for when such higher level evolutionary processes can become the dominating factor in determining which genes get passed on.

Regarding Gould, again, I am not going to defend him against all criticisms. I am not surprised that he has not always properly cited others. Certainly he had a large ego and did a lot of self-advertising. And I am perfectly willing to accept that he may have engaged in some oversimplifications or even obfuscations and confusions regarding evolution in terms of public knowledge. This is unfortunate to the extent it is true. But his debates with Dawkins and Williams and Maynard Smith were serious debates, regarding which on at least some issues the consensus is moving more in his direction now.

As for people dumping on his politicis, fine. But please do not pretend that you are making scientific arguments. These are essentially ad hominem arguments of the worst sort.

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