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Pierre-Simon Laplace (2) vs. John Belushi; Pele advances

For yesterday I was leaning toward Penn and Teller based on Bobbie’s reasoning:

Penn & Teller not only create interesting, often politically-relevant, magic. They are also visible skeptics who critique the over-claiming of magicians/mystics/paranormal advocates and they use empirical arguments/demonstrations when they speak to debunk pseudoscience. For those of us who care about such things as the “replication crisis,” creating better science, the acceptance of science, etc., is there a better analogy than to magic?

But then I read this from Daniel:

The question is whether we want a seminar focused on Bullshit! like most seminars, or on a universal truth and beauty: The Beautiful Game. I gotta go with Pele, but given it’s an academic seminar I’m pretty sure we’re going to get the Bullshit!

And the deciding argument from plusplus:

I would really like to hear Pele’s considered thoughts on who really is GOAT — him or Messi. I know, he is on the record about it already, but has been already refuted massively [sic] by video evidence, so what better than confronting a hostile seminar audience and justify his title?

And today we have the second-ranked mathematician of all time (recall that the ranking was done by a statistician; that’s how applied statisticians Laplace and Turing ranked so high) vs. an unseeded, but memorable, eater. Either one would be entertaining. Recall that Laplace anticipated all of behavioral economics, so his talk should attract people from the psychology and econ depts and b-school as well as the usual suspects from math, stat, and physics.

Again, the full bracket is here, and here are the rules:

We’re trying to pick the ultimate seminar speaker. I’m not asking for the most popular speaker, or the most relevant, or the best speaker, or the deepest, or even the coolest, but rather some combination of the above.

I’ll decide each day’s winner not based on a popular vote but based on the strength and amusingness of the arguments given by advocates on both sides. So give it your best!

30 Comments

  1. Laplace by a landslide… he’d be transformative.

  2. Jonathan (another one) says:

    Laplace taught both Poisson and Napoleon.
    Belushi taught his brother.

    Which one seems like the better teacher?

  3. plusplus says:

    Laplace forever, for saying in response to criticism that his book on celestial dynamics did not mention God, that he had no need for God.

  4. Ethan Bolker says:

    I really think this is the place for Laplace. But I think I detect a trend in recent competitions. Andrew leans toward an early favorite, who remains a favorite throughout, then finds a closing clincher for the opposition. So I should ring the bell for Belushi just to get him in the game early enough for riposte.

  5. Martha (Smith) says:

    “Recall that Laplace anticipated all of behavioral economics, so his talk should attract people from the psychology and econ depts and b-school as well as the usual suspects from math, stat, and physics.”

    And it would be very interesting to hear what he thinks of current research trends in psychology, Econ, and b-school — and how people in those fields respond to his comments.

  6. J Storrs Hall says:

    I fear that Laplace would be overly relaxed. Belushi, on the other hand, would be on a mission from God. With a full tank of gas. At midnight. Wearing sunglasses.
    And he might even bring a penguin.

  7. zbicyclist says:

    A man who had no need for God, and a man on a mission from God.

    When our pastor was taking a statistics course as part of his MBA, I tried to explain how statistical models of human behavior were less of a violation of the notion of free will than the notion of an omniscient, omnipotent God was. I’d like to hear Laplace’s answer to this one, even if it’s just to sniff at the question.

    • Anonymous says:

      Quote from above: “A man who had no need for God, and a man on a mission from God.”

      Ha ha, i see what you did there! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4YrCFz0Kfc)

      +1

    • Jonathan (another one) says:

      When a man who has no need for God faces off against one who’s on a mission from God, the only proper thing to do is to allow Pascal to resolve the issue. He’d choose Belushi under these circumstances, as we know, even though it required dissing his countryman.

      However, Pascal doesn’t resolve this wager… Gelman does. And knowing what he thinks about Pascal’s wager (https://statmodeling.stat.columbia.edu/2007/02/08/the_fallacy_of/) ought to be the last straw for Belushi.

      • zbicyclist says:

        Jonathan (another one) — that’s a great post of Andrew’s (i.e. when I followed the link I remembered it after all these years; that’s from 2007!).

        But of his many examples, I think the use of Pascal’s wager is the weakest one. (That’s hinted by its position as example #3 of 6 — i.e. not first, last, or even second).

        Pascal’s using this wager example in a world whether there is either a Judeo-Christian God or no God; the many other possibilities aren’t part of his audience’s worldview. The wager’s argument isn’t designed to change the audience’s worldview, only to urge good behavior. So the fact that the wager assumes certain things of God that we can’t know isn’t really relevant.

        But would we get good behavior from Belushi, whose humor famously depended on bad behavior (both in the movie Animal House, and in real life)? Do we want a food fight at the seminar? Would Pascal actually endorse the ill-behaved Belushi over the aristocratic Laplace? The heart of Pascal’s wager is really that behavior (living as though God exists) is more important than actual belief.

        And then there’s the matter of supporting one’s countrymen. The Coneheads were from France, but Belushi was never a Conehead.

        So, to me, Pascal would wager on Laplace.

        • Jonathan (another one) says:

          This is a good point. Contemporaneous with Pascal’s wager was Moliere’s Tartuffe. The potential for mischiefmaking by those who claim to be on a mission from God was clearly familiar to Pascal. Thus, there is a social cost to choosing Belushi, like the expected damage to the dining hall after the talk. I think that’s Andrew’s point.

          I have a proof, however, that Pascal would have chosen Belushi. Unfortunately, the margin of this comment is too small to hold it. Vive la France.

  8. Dalton says:

    Belushi’s demons are a whole lot more interesting than Laplace’s demon. With the latter, you always know what you’re gonna get forever and ever evermore. The former offers heaps of exciting uncertainty, and if you remember the night, you’ll have a hell of story.

  9. Dzhaughn says:

    It is well known that “Rubber Biscuit” was derived from a hit song by The Chips. In fact, The Chips’s mysterious composition was based on the work of Laplace. The key observation here is that, if it is anything, “La Place” is pretty flat, so his own Laplacian is uniformly near zero. OTOH, Belushi’s second derivative version declares the same of itself: “What do you want for nothing? A r-r-r-r-r-rubber biscuit?” So the difference between the Chips and Laplace’s work is only a harmonica.

    Bow, bow, oo-oo-oowoo-oo.

  10. Terry says:

    “Recall that Laplace anticipated all of behavioral economics, so his talk should attract people from the psychology and econ depts and b-school as well as the usual suspects from math, stat, and physics.”

    Careful. This is an example of how difficult it is to do sarcasm online. Some people might mistakenly think you believe it is a good thing to have such academic hoi poloi at the seminar.

  11. Jan says:

    I never heard about John Belushi, so I looked him up, and I don’t understand why he is an eater (other than an “opium eater” in a way). More importantly, why isn’t Jan Svankmayer an eater? Or Pierre Fermat, who was known for his fondness for caraway seed cake?

    • Jan says:

      Now that I think about it, I suggest Belushi be disqualified for not being really an eater, and in the interest of fairnes, Pierre Fermat be declared the winner of this round, being both eater and mathematician (and Pierre as well).

    • Anonymous says:

      Quote from above:”I never heard about John Belushi, so I looked him up, and I don’t understand why he is an eater (other than an “opium eater” in a way)”

      I am not sure either, but perhaps “eater” is a reference to his body size (he was a bit chubby)?

  12. Jeff says:

    I’m certain it’s this, a staple of any Belushi highlight reel:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxCUHjx7U7Y

  13. Jan says:

    OK, I stand corrected. This guy is an eater! You know, I actually like him! Of course he would be more impressive if he really ate all the stuff he put on his tray, but you cannot have everything. What I am impressed about, you can clerly see that at 2:15, he places what is clearly a large slab of caraway seed cake on his plate. I don’t know about Pascal, but Fermat would approve!

    Bite me, Gandalf!

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