Written: Aug. 15, 2013
Like in most debates, also in this one, between E.O. Wilson and Edward Frenkel, both sides are right and both sides are wrong. But E.O. Wilson is much more right than Edward Frenkel.
Edward Frenkel dismissively calls E.O. Wilson's career path, "obsolete". Without math, according to Frenkel, even biologists can't make it in today's world. I have news for you, my dear Ed. Very soon your career path would be even more obsolete. Your kind of pure math, that only uses paper-and-pencil, and deals with meaningless esoterica, based on very questionable philosophical foundations, e.g. the Langlands program, will soon be old hat, just like plane Geometry is today.
As I have already said here, the kind of math needed for science, and for the future, is definitely not your kind of math. Your "high-brow" "Fields-medals-gathering-subjects" will be soon forgotten, and the Euclidean "rigorous proof" paradigm will be abandoned.
Mathematics will soon become a real science, not the pseudo-science it is now, like it was way back in Babylon and Egypt. Scientific insight and ingenuity, the kind of things E.O. Wilson excels at, would become much more important than the very narrow talent for rigorous-theorem-proving that you are so good at.
And you really made me laugh when you said, in your patronizing (very dogmatic!) way:
Says who? Even, if for the sake of argument, I would agree that there exists mathematics up there in the sky, independent of us, the miniscule fraction that we, lowly humans, know and practice, is completely dependent on the accidents of evolution that made us what we are, and the very contingent random walk of history. It is an entirely historical fluke that nowadays the Langlands program is so fashionable.
Now, thanks to admittedly historical contingency, we have the computer, and it is people who can use it most effectively, and think scientifically and empirically, like, E.O. Wilson, rather than Edward Frenkel, who would be the future great mathematicians.
So here is my advice to you, young aspiring scientist and mathematician. By all means, learn and explore math, but don't be bullied by pure mathematicians like Edward Frenkel who will try to push down your throat their kind of (dogmatic!) rigorous-proof-based boring math, and like all religious fanatics, will claim that their religion is the only true one. Future math, once again, will become fun, algorithmic, and computational, and the kind of people who would be good at it would be more like E.O.Wilson than like Edward Frenkel.