I was browsing B & N tonight when I came across a new book by Robert Trivers. I will admit I’d never heard of Trivers before, so I was taken aback by his framing of Israel as illustrative of deceit and self-deception in the form of false historical narratives. His rant qualifies him as a pro-Palestinian apologist and anti-semite of the highest order, his protest at being depicted as such notwithstanding. Get this (p.244): “Many first-class minds in mathematics, the sciences, and many other intellectual pursuits are Jewish (or partly Jewish). But this intellectuality can have a downside. Great intellectual talent may be associated with more deception and self-deception.” Hitler would have been proud.
If Trivers sounds a bit Chomskian, it is no coincidence.
I’m not sure if the Wikipedia entry on Trivers is entirely accurate, but at the very least he is an interesting individual. As noted there, as well as in an Edge feature, there were rumors involving breakdowns, jail time, and Jamaica. A recent TED talk in Jamaica hints at a disheveled if not entertaining anthropologic mind, yet brilliant thinkers like Steven Pinker hold Trivers to be one of the great minds in Western Society. Go figure.
It was another brilliant mind and fellow professor at Rutgers, Doron Zeilberger, who first called out Trivers publicly for his pseudo-scientific anti-Zionist views. At the bottom of the page you’ll find a link to Trivers’ reply. Heavier verbal blows were exchanged between Trivers and Alan Dershowitz. Though Dershowitz cites this in one of his books, Trivers chooses to totally ignore his critics in The Folly of Fools. Talk about self-deception.
Zeilberger is admittedly a man after my own heart. His thinking is clear, though his shelves are a mess. Look at this clip on ultrafinitism.
Ultrafinitism is a mathematical concept that likens infinity to the mis-impression we might have of being able to sail off the edge of the earth. When you start counting you can seemingly go on forever, but conceptualize for a moment a number bigger than you could ever imagine. Eventually, if you were to come to it, add the number one and arrive back at zero. This may seem like a paradox, but it pales in comparison to the paradox of Trivers’ Follies.