West Hunter abuses E.O. Wilson

Solely in the mathematical sense, you understand:

Lord Kelvin said “I often say that when you can measure what you are
speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it;
but when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre
and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you
have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science,
whatever the matter may be.”  Even those who didn’t have much math
sometimes wished that they did.  Chuck Darwin said “I have deeply
regretted that I did not proceed far enough at least to understand
something of the great leading principles of mathematics;  for men thus
endowed seem to have an extra sense.”

E. O. Wilson would have benefited from having that extra sense. If he
had it, he might not have suggested that ridiculous “gay uncle” theory,
in which homosexuality pays for itself genetically thru gay men helping
their siblings in ways that produce extra nieces and nephews. First,
that doesn’t even happen – so much for field work.  Second, it’s
impossible.  The relationship coefficients don’t work. Nephews and
nieces are only half as closely related as your own kids, so you’d need
four extra to break even, rather than two, as with your own kids.  Maybe
if Wilson had ever learned to divide by two, he wouldn’t have made this mistake.

Biology and softer-headed sciences such as anthropology are
absolutely rife with innumerates, and there is a cost.  If I hear one
more person say that average growth rates were very low in the old stone
age, a teeny tiny fraction of a percent [true], and so anatomically
modern humans only left Africa after it filled up, which took a hundred
thousand years, I’m gonna scream.  If I hear another anthropologist say
that she could understand how a small group could rapidly expand to fill
New Zealand, but just can’t see how they could fill up the Americas,
whole continents, in a thousand years – lady, they screwed, they had
babies, and they walked.  All it took was a weird, unacademic lifestyle
in which you raised three kids – pretty easy to do in the Happy Hunting

This is helpful in illustrating why biologists, as well as science fetishists who harbor blind faith in biologists, shy away from the sort of quantifiable questions I posed to Mike Williamson earlier this week.  It’s true that quantification is not the magical be all and end all; economics is riddled by pseudo-quantifiable fictions that lead to bad theory and even worse policies. But without numbers, there is no precision, and without precision, there is no science, there is only, as Lord Kelvin suggested, the beginning of what could, eventually, become science.

And insofar as it remains unquantifiable and non-numeric, (to say nothing of unfalsifiable), the Theorum of Evolution by (probably) Natural Selection remains a matter of philosophy, not science.