Mathematics has a unique capacity to infuriate people, so when a world-leading scientist announced his belief that advanced math is unnecessary for the modern scientist, the response from the nerdosphere was blistering.
In the last week or so, since an excerpt of Edward O. Wilson’s new book, Letters To A Young Scientist, ran in the Wall Street Journal, the evolutionary biologist and ant expert has been criticized as “insulting,” “misinformed,” “sad,” “misguided,” “counterproductive,” “frustrating,” “flat-out wrong,” and “a disgrace.” He is “trading on fear” of math, and “uncritically accepting the idea that math is something inherently unpleasant.”
“Don’t listen to E.O. Wilson,” one mathematician wrote of the Harvard professor emeritus. “He does not understand what mathematics is.”
In the book, the two time Pulitzer Prize-winning Prof. Wilson shares what he calls a secret: that many top scientists today are mathematically merely “semiliterate,” and this is not so bad…
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