Written: Sept. 18, 2007.
Apology: So far, in these opinions, I have stuck to mathematics, but I got so angry this evening, that I have to make an exception.
I just came back from a dinner/lecture for Rutgers University faculty, organized by its Vice President for Research, Michael Pazzani. Today's "lecturer" was Robert Trivers who has recently won the prestigious Crafoord prize, that is some kind of analog of a Nobel prize, and like all my colleagues, I was proud that a Rutgers faculty member won such a great honor. As you will soon see, this pride turned into a great shame.
Pazzani's laudable aim for these lectures is to have people from different fields meet each other and exchange ideas and views.
And boy, this evening we did indeed get some views. Ironically, I got so angry in spite of the fact that I completely agree with the bottom line of the "talk", that Israel was wrong to start the Second Lebanon War, and that this war, like all wars, is due, in large part, to self-deception.
The reason I got so angry is that it was not a scientific talk at all, not even a political one. It was pure low-level propaganda, a one-sided, shallow, political tirade against Israel and the Jews. It made the Jews the bad guys and the Arabs innocent saints. It also had some Male chauvinism thrown in for good taste. It is clear that the guy is a complete bigot. My dear colleague Bob, let me remind you that life is complicated, and there is no right and wrong, neither is there black and white, only various shades of gray.
Of course, Trivers is entitled to his opinions, but what is sickening is that he pretends to be scientific. I lost all respect to Evolutionary "Science". If one of its great "gurus", a Crafoord laureate, is such a flake, then it can't be very scientific. Granted, we all know of great mathematicians and scientists who are flakes and crackpots when they talk on stuff outside their specialty, and sometimes, they implicitly try to use their scientific reputation to promote their political agenda, for example Noam Chomsky, Israel Aumann, and many others. But it is very rare to have political activists pretend to be real scientists and "prove" their political views with their pseudo-science. It is even rarer that they are taken seriously by the scientific community.
It is indeed very shocking that the Crafoord prize can be given to such a person. This mixture of science and politics is very unhealthy, and it is very possible that Trivers got his prize because of his political views, rather than for his "science".
So, Crafoord Prize committee, better luck next time!