Wikipedia is great. I always hoped to appear there. But now I have ... and my feeling is mixed. My friend Dave Embick from Penn (maybe even more cranky than me, by the way) noticed this entry, and was (un)kind enough to let me know.
There is an entry in Wikipedia on "biolinguistics," a term that has been used in recent years in variety of confusing (and confused) ways. As someone whose faculty appointments are in a biology department and a linguistics department, I feel that *something* about our work has to do with biology and linguistics (after all, we work with the brain part of biology and the language part of linguistics). But biolinguistics is for the most part concerned with more abstract problems, say stuff like "do the laws of growth and form as discussed by D'Arcy Thompson show specific effects on the architecture of the language system." I have friends and colleagues who work on these issues in a serious way, and at some point some comments on 'good' (a research program with 'legs') versus bad biolinguistics (dead ends) are in order. There is, to be sure, good stuff to be done in that context.
In this entry, in any case, reference is made to the Fibonacci Series and the Golden Ratio, and it it intimated that these parts of mathematics have particular applicability to syntax. Maybe. maybe not. I think that this is an empirical question. But, as Dave points out, one one reading of the Wikipedia entry I am not just cranky, but maybe crazy because I may not 'believe' in Fibonacci :-) here is what is said:
"This approach is not without its critics. David Poeppel, the neuroscientist and linguist, has characterized the Biolinguistics program as "inter-disciplinary cross-sterilization", arguing that vague metaphors that seek to relate linguistic phenomena to biological phenomena explains nothing about language or biology. However, it was recently shown that syntactic structures possess the properties of other biological systems. The Law of Nature (Golden Ratio) accounts for the number of nodes in syntactic trees, binarity of branching, and syntactic phase formation."
Now, it is true that I think there are many serious conceptual problems with the way some questions are asked in the context of biolinguistics. However, if there are *really* results that show that detailed properties of syntactic structure follow from the Golden Ratio, I would like to know the linking hypotheses from Golden Ratio to neuronal circuitry to syntactic phase formation. The reason I am cranky is that I can't just buy into this way of talking about stuff. The reason that I am not crazy is that I simply want to see plausible accounts of how these different levels of description interact. So ... show me the money.