Opinion 172: Correlation is not Causation, Hence the Conclusive Report that Proves that Smokers are better Mathematicians (on average) than non-smokers, should not be suppressed

By Doron Zeilberger

Written: April 1, 2019

We all know that smoking is bad for your health, and that smoking should be discouraged. For many years, tobacco companies claimed that the correlation between lung cancer and other health problems is not causation. Famously, the great frequentist, Sir Ronald Fisher, claimed in a letter to the editor , dated July 6, 1957, to the British Medical Journal (available from JSOTR) that the "true peril" (or as he put it, the "yellow peril") is not the "mild and soothing weed" but the mass-media hysteria of "modern devices of publicity" that warn against smoking, and that there is still no evidence that the harm (if it exists) of tobacco outweighs its evident benefit to a good mental health. I am sure that Sir Ronald, while obviously wrong, actually believed in what he said, and the fact that he was himself a smoker, and had some extra income as a consultant to tobacco companies, had nothing to do with his sincere belief.

Unfortunately, in spite of the Surgeon General's warning, quite a few, otherwise brilliant, people still smoke today. Here is a very partial list, of mathematicians that I know (or knew) personally.

This lead me to make a conjecture that there is a fairly strong correlation between mathematical aptitude and being a smoker.

This was recently confirmed by an extensive study "Mathematics and Smoking" that evaluated 1000 randomly chosen mathematical smokers and 1000 non-smokers, and concluded, that the correlation between smoking and mathematical ability is 0.765 (plus-and-minus 0.003). This interesting study was rejected by the Notices of the American Mathematical Society, not because they found anything wrong with it, but because of the PC mafia that was worried that this study would encourage young graduate students to take up smoking in order to improve their math. Please give me a break! Graduate students are smart enough to know that correlation is not causation, and just if they did not smoke until now, adopting this bad habit would not increase, by epsilon, their chance of proving RH.

Unfortunately, the authors of this interesting study succumbed to pressure, and agreed not to make it public. This is a shame. Of course, physical health is very important, but the truth is even more so, and the "inconvenient truth" that smokers make better mathematicians should not be censored.

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