Okay, cubs, it’s time to play everyone’s favorite game, “Who Said Something Stupid?” Rules are simple: in your comment to this post, identify the dim bulb who uttered each of the following outrageous statements. Creativity in your guess will be rewarded, but points will be deducted for snorts and guffaws that lead to spewing coffee on your keyboard.
After finding the author of the quote, place your vote for the stupidest statement of the month. Winners will be decided by me at an arbitrary point in time, and will be notified telepathically. The prize for correctly identifying all of the authors will be a sincere pat on the back (i.e., with claws retracted) and a virtual pint of virtual Pilsener at the virtual Pub.
The prize for the author of the winningest statement will be the negative attention of a small number of people for a fairly short period of time. And the perpetual linking of his or her name with his or her stupid comment on web archives everywhere.
Ready? Let’s play!
Our first contestant is a software engineer. When solicited for a discussion about how one might find the solution to a particular class of mathematical problems, he responded (with such composure and self-assurance!):
“To find a solution, one could try the software at: http://www.diku.dk/geosteiner/”
Try this on your next college calculus problem set: find the answer to a problem by looking in the back of the book. In the space where you’re supposed to show your work, write “looked up the answer in the back of the book”. Sit back and bask in your enhanced credibility and in the TA’s admiration of your command of the subject.
Continuing the mathematical theme:
“…no population geneticist would assume…that variance is a parameter that might remain unchanged for more than 360,000 generations, not least of all because it is well-known that changes in gene frequencies affect variance, often by linkage disequilibrium. The word variance might suggest as much, suggesting, as it does, something that varies.
Uh, did this guy just suggest that it’s called “variance” because it varies?!? Oh, indeed he did!
Maybe these are the words of a mathematical naif, untutored in the arcane points of mathematical statistics. Maybe this person is the internet equivalent of Gauss’s classmates, who – que stupide! – could not see what was so obvious to that prodigy. “Certainly,” you cry, “this is not someone who claims any mathematical expertise whatsoever!”
We got “engineers”, we got mathematicians. We also got LAWYERS (yea! woohoo!). Our next entry, by a lawyer, concerns the “Demarcation Problem” of distinguishing science from all the other human crap there is out there (y’know: art, religion, “American Idol”). Mr. JD Esquire says:
“Who gave Karl Popper the authority to set the epistemological ground rules for all of the rest of us? I feel like the peasant in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. The peasant asks Arthur, ‘How did you get to be king? I didn’t vote for you.’ Similarly I don’t recall voting to put science in a box marked ‘falsification line of demarcation – do not open.’”
Lawyers talking epistemology and quoting from Monty Python movies (not, it should be noted, from “The Life of Brian”)? Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends!
Wait a minute: “Popper”? Did you say “Popper”? Who but Phillip Johnson cares about Popper anymore? That’s sooooo old paradigm! And by the way: so what? You didn’t get to vote on the law of gravity either.
There are of course many more such stupidities just waiting–as the philosophers and house movers say–to be ‘unpacked’.