Comments Worth Reading
By Arnold Kling
Eric Falkenstein is not such a fan of The Black Swan and its author.
Taleb’s style is to criticize experts of all sorts severely, while implying that both he and his reader or listener are exempt from their many biases…deflating puffed-up egos, criticizing the insular world of academics, and suggesting the experts have a huge blind spot on something important, can be fun reading. But it has to be making points that are true if new, or important if true, and here he fails to deliver.
…Martin Gardner wrote a popular column for Scientific American, and in the process received a lot of mail from ‘cranks’ telling him about perpetual motion machines and the like. So he wrote a book called Fads and Fallacies. In the book he describes “cranks” as having five invariable characteristics:
1. They have a profound intellectual superiority complex.
2. They regard other researchers as idiotic, and always operate outside the peer review
3. They believe there is a campaign against their ideas, a campaign compared with the persecution of Galileo or Pasteur.
4. They attack only the biggest theories and scientific figures.
5. They coin neologisms.
So far, I haven’t seen Taleb exhibit (3).
I remember that in college when I read Hegel (I forget which body of work) for a class, I was struck by the fact that he had no citations or quotes from other thinkers. To me, that is the sign of a crank. If you have so much regard for your own work that you cannot trace any intellectual ancestry, then something is wrong.
Read Eric’s whole essay.