Scientific American does an asinine hit job on E. O. Wilson, calling him a racist

December 30, 2021 • 10:45 am

Scientific American has hit rock bottom with this new op-ed that is nothing more than a hit piece on Ed Wilson, basically calling him a racist.

It is written by someone who apparently has no training in evolutionary biology, though she says she “intimately familiarized [herself] with Wilson’s work and his dangerous ideas on what factors influence human behavior.” I usually don’t question someone because of their credentials, but this piece is so stupid, so arrantly ignorant of Wilson’s work, that I can attribute its content only to a combination of ignorance (perhaps deliberate) or a woke desire to take down someone as a racist who wasn’t a racist. Or both.

In fact, the piece below could have been written by any social-justice ideologue, for its real aim is more than smearing Wilson; it;s also to change the nature of science. Read on.

Once again, the magazine evinces a ridiculous wokeness; how could its editor, Laura Helmuth, allow this to be published?  I recommend your reading it; it’s short and also free (click on the screenshot):

I could rant forever about the ignorance of this woman, but will try to refrain. Note the links above that say “discrimination” and “racism”. But nowhere in the article does she give one iota of evidence that Wilson was a racist. Yes, he was a biological determinist—and not a pure biological determinist, for he wrote books about the influence of culture and genetics—but I never heard him say or write anything to indicate that he was biased against members of other groups. (The author, Monica R. McLemore, is black.) Not all people who claim that genes have a role in human behavior are racists, you know. And if you claim that genes don’t have any influence in modern behavior, which was Wilson’s point in writing the last chapter of Sociobiology, then you’re ignorant and wrong. .

If Wilson was a racist, shouldn’t McLemore should have adduced evidence for that? I see none. I see stuff that she considers to be evidence, but it’s not at all convincing.

Here’s her sole evidence that Wilson was “problematic” and that he was a racist:

His influential text Sociobiology: The New Synthesis contributed to the false dichotomy of nature versus nurture and spawned an entire field of behavioral psychology grounded in the notion that differences among humans could be explained by genetics, inheritance and other biological mechanisms. Finding out that Wilson thought this way was a huge disappointment, because I had enjoyed his novel Anthill, which was published much later and written for the public.

I suggest you read the last chapter of Sociobiology: it merely speculates about how human evolution could have influenced many modern human behaviors and traits, including sociality, altruism, aesthetics, and morality. There’s nothing I could find in that chapter suggesting that Wilson is a racist, or that he thinks that differences between races that have promoted racism are determined by genes. The word “race,” in fact, doesn’t even appear in the index.

Yes, Wilson was a biological determinist to some degree about animal and human behavior, but we all should be! After all, why should humans be the sole species whose behavior isn’t affected by their evolution? But to repeat myself:  thinking that differences between people or even groups could have a genetic component is not the same thing as racism, which is based on hierarchies and bigotry. Now, Wilson might have been accused of racism by people like my own Ph.D. advisor Dick Lewontin (I don’t know about that, though), but they never adduced evidence for that. Nor does McLemore. For reasons best known to herself, she’s just terribly eager to brand a famous scientist as a bigot.

More “evidence”:

Wilson was hardly alone in his problematic beliefs. His predecessors—mathematician Karl Pearson, anthropologist Francis Galton, Charles Darwin, Gregor Mendel and others—also published works and spoke of theories fraught with racist ideas about distributions of health and illness in populations without any attention to the context in which these distributions occur.

We’ve talked about most of these people before, and yes, they had ideas that today would be considered racist, but Darwin was also an abolitionist. And MENDEL, for crying out loud? Find me one piece of Mendel’s writings that suggest that the good friar was a racist! Were green peas considered superior to yellow peas? Here we have McLemore simply making stuff up: throwing Mendel’s discoveries of inheritance into the pot with the other accused “racists.” This is dreadful scholarship, almost humorous in its ignorant assertions.

But wait! There’s more!

Even modern geneticists and genome scientists struggle with inherent racism in the way they gather and analyze data. In his memoir A Life Decoded: My Genome: My Life, geneticist J. Craig Venter writes, “The complex provenance of ideas means their origin is often open to interpretation.”

I will pass on, as that sentence has nothing to do with racism and proves nothing.

One more bit of “evidence” that Wilson and his “problematic” peers were racist:

First, the so-called normal distribution of statistics assumes that there are default humans who serve as the standard that the rest of us can be accurately measured against. The fact that we don’t adequately take into account differences between experimental and reference group determinants of risk and resilience, particularly in the health sciences, has been a hallmark of inadequate scientific methods based on theoretical underpinnings of a superior subject and an inferior one. Commenting on COVID and vaccine acceptance in an interview with PBS NewsHour, recently retired director of the National Institutes of Health Francis Collins pointed out, “You know, maybe we underinvested in research on human behavior.”

What this has to do with Wilson, much less Galton, Darwin, Pearson, and Mendel, eludes me. In fact, the paragraph makes almost no sense to me. McLemore, it seems, is a Pecksniff for Racism, trying to find it in everything that exists, including the famous normal distribution itself.

On Twitter, one reader asked McLemore why she didn’t actually quote any of Wilson’s words to show his racism, and she gives the answer of a person who didn’t do her homework, turning a necessity (her laziness or ideological zeal) into a virtue:

McLemore goes on, implying again and again that various factors imply Wilson was racist, but it’s all nonsense:

Second, the application of the scientific method matters: what works for ants and other nonhuman species is not always relevant for health and/or human outcomes.

Yes—but so what?

Lastly, examining nurture versus nature without any attention to externalities, such as opportunities and potential (financial structures, religiosity, community resources and other societal structures), that deeply influence human existence and experiences is both a crude and cruel lens. This dispassionate query will lead to individualistic notions of the value and meaning of human lives while, as a society, our collective fates are inextricably linked.

Externalities, Dr. McLemore, are environments, or “nurture”! Again, we get a paragraph that basically says nothing.

McLemore then gives three ways to help us evaluate “problematic” scientists, including turning the enterprise into a Mandela initiative:

First, truth and reconciliation are necessary in the scientific record, including attention to citational practices when using or reporting on problematic work.

. . . Second, diversifying the scientific workforce is crucial not only to asking new types of research questions and unlocking new discoveries but also to conducting better scienceOther scholars have pointed out that feminist standpoint theory is helpful in understanding white empiricism and who is eligible to be a worthy observer of the human condition and our world. We can apply the same approach to scientific research.

. . . Finally, we need new methods. One of the many gifts of the Human Genome Project was the creativity it spawned beyond revealing the secrets of the genome, such as new rules about public availability and use of data.

I really can’t go on, except to add two things. First, McLemore herself is being unscientific in accusing “problematic” Ed Wilson of racism without mentioning one bit of evidence. And MENDEL??? There is no scholarship involved in this piece, and, in the end defaming Wilson seems like merely an excuse for McLemore to vent her ill-considered antiracist views of science on the readers of Scientific American.

Finally, the really problematic people today are not Ed Wilson; they are people like McLemore herself, who simply ignores evidence, makes misleading statements about scientists, and accuses science of being structurally racist in a way for which only she knows the cure. It is people like her who are not only defacing and distorting history, but trying to change the face of science from being a set of tools to investigate nature into a set of ideological practices to achieve Social Justice.

I haven’t yet investigated the Twittersphere, but reader Paul directed me to this thread, which contains many more takes on this article. Almost none of them are good. Here are just a few. Khan, author of the first two tweets, is a geneticist.

I usually don’t express sentiments this extreme on this site, but I have to say that I’m not that far off from Wright here:

If you still subscribe to Scientific American, you’d better have a damn good reason why.  It’s too late to urge editor Laura Helmuth to change the tone of the magazine, for it’s clearly the tone she wants: less science, more wokeness.

237 thoughts on “Scientific American does an asinine hit job on E. O. Wilson, calling him a racist

    1. These publications have had diminished credibility for a while now. Do you remember when Popular Mechanics published an article titled “Why Some People Think 2 + 2 = 5 and Why They Are Right”? It was another woke attempt to demonstration “other ways of knowing.” Sadly, it isn’t only religion nowadays that has science and mathematics under attack (although William Lane Craig has completely lost his mind with his campaign against mathematical realism – the predominant view in mathematics and philosophy of mathematics – because he thinks that math being real makes God’s existence impossible…)

      1. I do not have problems with ‘other ways of knowing’ as long as they are evidence based and use plausible reasoning. Social sciences may not qualify as science, but you cannot disqualify them as rubbish either. From a philosophical standpoint, the foundations of our knowledge can always be questioned.

        1. “I do not have problems with ‘other ways of knowing’ as long as they are evidence based and use plausible reasoning. Social sciences may not qualify as science, but you cannot disqualify them as rubbish either. From a philosophical standpoint, the foundations of our knowledge can always be questioned.”

          Agreed, but good social sciences try their best to be empirical. They’re not relying on a different epistemology. “Other ways of knowing” is a postmodernist term used to describe knowledge based “lived experiences” (in other words, personal feelings). For proponents of this position, all science and mathematics are politically motivated social constructions. This is at the root of much, though not all, pseudoscience including the anti-vaccination movement.

          1. You come up with a very narrow definition of ‘other ways of knowing’. The owner of this blog claims science is the only way of knowing. If you accept that other ways of knowing are possible, then you do not necessarily think that all science and mathematics are politically motivated social constructions. That is the woke version of it perhaps, but it is not what I mean. I mean something else. For instance, there is evidence suggestive of reincarnation. It may not meet scientific criteria but it is real verifiable evidence. You may check this Wikipedia page:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Stevenson

            1. The linked page seems unconvincing at best, for someone who believes in (an extremely limited form of) reincarnation. Randomness exists in the world; not everything at human scale has a ready, first-order explanation. Stevenson’s claim, against all material evidence, that physical features, emotions, memories, etc can transfer from one person to another across time and space stretches credibility. Especially if it is only invoked to explain a process that most people would accept as containing a large element of randomness (“why some people develop diseases, and others don’t”). Memories, emotions, even our awareness of the world can all be traced to physical configurations of neurons in the brain; see descriptions of the Predictive Processing paradigm (Surfing Uncertainty) for an understanding of how that might work.

              The problem with “other ways of knowing” and all other reality-is-subjective defenses of relativism is that *what is true* is *what corresponds with reality.* There is no other definition of truth. It is not the case that P is true if and only if *someone believes P;* P is true **if and only if P.**

              1. I linked to Wikipedia because it mentions the most relevant opinions on the matter. It is not a woo-promiting site, rather the opposite.

                The point is in the ‘material evidence’ part. Some people do not accept other types of evidence, even if thousands of people have vivid and detailed memories deceased persons they could not have possibly known.

                It is related to the science-is-the-only-way-of-knowing-belief. If evidence to contrary is ignored, it becomes like a religion. Humans are religious by nature. Religions create group cohesion that has been important for the spread of genes (winning a war requires group cohesion).

                For the science believer, it is sufficient have a possible alternative explanation (for instance, fraud or delusion) even if evidence is not forthcoming. In the case of Stevenson’s research, this is not possible because he done a great job in verifying the cases.

                And then you come up with randomness. Really? As if that does not stretch credibility.

                There is an explanation that appears plausible to me. This universe may be a virtual reality created by an advanced humanoid civilisation for entertainment.

                The real world may be billions of years old and materialist but this world may be fake and look like a real one. That does not stretch credibility by ignoring evidence.

                The problem with “delusional thinking” and all other reality-must-be-provable defenses of objectivism is that *what is true* is *what corresponds with reality.* There is no other definition of truth. It is not the case that P is true if and only if *someone can prove P;* P is true **if and only if P.**

              2. Sorry for the world ‘delusional’ in the previous post. It should have been ‘objectivist’. Delusional thinking refers to ignoring evidence. The point is that objective truth exists but a subjective individual may not know it, unless it can be proven. Things can be true even when they cannot be proven. Truth does not depend on proof.

              3. ‘Material’ evidence suggests that consciousness resides within the body, and therefore, reincarnation seems impossible. There is plenty of that kind of evidence. But then again, Stevenson’s claim is also substantiated with evidence.

              4. //‘Material’ evidence suggests that consciousness resides within the body, and therefore, reincarnation seems impossible. There is plenty of that kind of evidence.//

                It’s not clear to me there’s *any* evidence. Evidence would only apply if there is at least a *conceivable* causal mechanism. But there isn’t.

                Also the damaged brain leads to a damaged mind confuses causation with correlation.

              5. I think there is a difference between evidence and proof. If you have a mental model of reality, you use evidence to support your position. For instance, you may think that the mind resides in the brains, and then you bring up the evidence for your position. It is conceivable (to say the very least) that the mind resides in the brains, and there is plenty of evidence to support such a position. Only, the evidence suggestive of reincarnation shows that it is wrong. If you walk in a city and look around, there is plenty of evidence for the position that the earth is flat, and you may find no evidence at all to demonstrate that it is not.

            2. Social sciences have their problems with theory – you can collect statistical data but what is the underlying predictive theory – which is why they are called “soft”.

              As an aside, I don’t think we would come anywhere in a discussion of philosophy since we have completely opposite understanding of it. Science is a tool to gather and use knowledge, the test is that it works. The science of philosophy is a simple observation: philosophy can’t do any of that, the test is that philosophers can’t agree and indeed have no method for it. So I have no urgent problem with questioning “the foundations of our knowledge”, it is part of the still young science of science (metascience).

              However, you reference known pseudoscience (“paranormal”) – based in superstition no less – and claim that it is relevant for understanding science. Even if that was true, the Wikipedia reference quickly tell us that Stevenson was using insufficient methods on insufficient statistics. An ironic note is that I see Scientific American reviewed the area favorably in 2013, which is perhaps all we need to know in the first place. 😀

              1. I recently had a discussion about the existence of the invisible hand in economics. Someone claimed that the invisible hand does not exist because you cannot prove that it exists. But you only have to go to North Korea or Cuba to see what happens in the absence of this invisible unproven hand-thing.

                My claim may go down in the hall of infamy of superstition because it lacks statistic evidence, but if communists ever take over my country, I will seriously consider emigrating.

                Did I question the foundation of knowledge? That is what you make of it. I only say that there is more knowledge than scientific knowledge, and something can be true even when it cannot be proven.

          2. “For proponents of this position, all science and mathematics are politically motivated social constructions. ”

            A quick and friendly footnote: political motivation is more characteristic of poststructuralism than postmodernism.

            1. Regardless, I’m against pretty much all the posts. If they introduced a new post-whatever tomorrow, I would be immediately wary of it. It’s a code prefix for some kind of navel-gazing.

      2. “because he thinks that math being real makes God’s existence impossible”

        And how is that a valid argument ?
        There is a better claim for God’s existence by reversing the run of the argument.

      1. Wow, that’s some article! It reads like a Dr. Irwin Corey diatribe or a physicist’s cryptic satire. There are so many sentences that boggle my mind but here’s one from the conclusion:

        “Through the recognition of white empiricism, a bifurcated logic that serves white supremacist traditions in science while deontologizing marginalized Black women physicists, I propose that the Black feminist theory intersectionality should change physics—and not just through who becomes a physicist but through the actual outcomes of what we come to know.”

        Assuming I understand this correctly, the author is suggesting that considering the problems of Black women physicists should affect the actual physics knowledge obtained. I suppose this follows from the primacy they place on lived experience, but if Black women observe different results than other physicists for the same experiment, science has an even bigger problem than racism.

        1. Dr. Irwin Corey is one of my heroes. His answer to the question, “Why do you wear tennis shoes?” is one of the great expositions of philosophy I have ever heard.

        1. I think that there are probably two reasons for this. One is that much of it has to do with race. While many European countries have a much larger population of foreigners, however it is defined, than Blacks in the USA, they are just that—foreigners—-whereas most Blacks in the USA are descendants of slaves, so the whole situation is very different. The other is the de-facto two-party system in the USA. Most countries in Europe have proportional representation (the UK doesn‘t, and wokeness is all the rage (pun intended) there; witness the death threats against J.K. Rowling), so if two parties are both crazy (for whatever reason), other parties can easily fill in the gap.

          1. Not disagreeing with your thesis, but you might want to check the ethnic demographics of European countries. None of them, not even France, has as high a percentage of people of African descent as the US does, and none of them have higher percentages of foreigners or immigrants. European countries are much, much whiter than the US, and much, much more homogeneous.

            1. You’re right with regard to those of African descent. (Of course, I never claimed that any European country has as many as the USA.). With regard to “immigrants” or “foreigners”, it depends on how the term is used. One common definition is “at least one parent not a citizen of the country in question when born and also not born in the country in question”. It wouldn’t surprise me if some European countries score higher than the USA using that, or similar, definitions.

              These days, in many, certainly not “much, much more”. Maybe more.

              But even if that is the case, I don’t think that is the only explanation for the lesser amount of wokeism.

    2. it is naive and outmoded to criticize the essay in terms of “If Wilson was a racist, shouldn’t McLemore should have adduced evidence for that?” This is, after all, 2022: an accusation of racism (among other social and intellectual sins) does not require evidence. To accuse is to condemn; end of story.

    1. Here is her tweet in which the editor quotes part of the article then makes a short commentary:

      ” ‘Examining nurture versus nature without any attention to externalities… that deeply influence human existence and experiences is both a crude and cruel lens.’ Insightful critique of E.O. Wilson’s work & racism inherent in genetics…”

      Note the “racism inherent in genetics”…Is she implying that race is genetic? What is she talking about? Can anyone help?

      1. I suspect what she means by “racism inherent in genetics” is that she’s acknowledging that race has a genetic component and, therefore, anyone who works in genetics is going to bump into race. I suspect she would rather avoid such uncomfortable truths and claim that everything is nurture, not nature. This is similar to the sentiment expressed by “the false dichotomy of nature versus nurture” in the opinion piece on Wilson. Since so many of the Woke’s ideas put nurture above nature, genetics is just troubling territory to them. In their eyes, E.O. Wilson was doomed as soon as he decided what field to enter.

        1. To be fair, there’s a long, long, very nasty history of attempting to justify slavery, racism, etc via pseudoscience especially using genetics. They’re not exactly coming to this from out of nowhere.

          1. Eugenics was dismissed long before these people were born. Their motives are ideological at their core as well as anti intellectual, reflecting American culture today. The roots were planted in the 1960s by the Marxists, reinforced by the post modernists and now watered by anti intellectualism and hatred of western civilization and all of its history. That our educational institutions have allowed and strengthened this is the real crime. The discarding of reason and logic as well as science should scare all of us out of our wits. It is the Dark Ages revived as a means of reinforcing the power of ideologues who
            want power, not equality, and who repeat the Soviet Union’s social engineering project that smothered and killed so many scientists and academics. I wonder who will preside at the next trial of apostates? There will be so many competing for that judgeship.

            1. YES! Totally.
              That’s the final blow for Sci American for me (I rarely read it before anyway). It is a sad sign of our times (and a portend) of wokeness over science.

              Periodicals, like businesses and countries have phases and sometimes they go downhill. Witness the once great but now embarrassingly stupid Time magazine. Let’s hope the Economist doesn’t go the same way.
              D.A.
              NYC

          2. Sure but you can’t responsibly deal with such nuance by just pretending genetics doesn’t exist. They are just practicing a sort of wishful thinking, as if to say, “If everything is nurture, we can change it!” Or, coming from the opposite direction, “If everything is nature (genetics), the differences between races is baked in and we’ll always be stuck with racism.”

            1. Racists have been not dealing with such nuance forever by just pretending substantial racism doesn’t exist, and that’s worked fine for them. I very rarely (not never, to avoid formal counterexample, but very very rarely) see declarations from people talking about the effects of genetics saying “Of course there’s been hundreds of years of slavery and then decades and decades of racism, and there’s still a huge amount of racism today, and any analysis simply must consider the environmental effects of the historic and present racism, which unquestionably bears on society today”. When I see that said as loudly, as frequently, as prominently, in the discussions by the “anti-woke”, I’ll have more belief in the possibility of nuance.

              1. I can’t parse your statement here. In pursuit of clarity, I would be interested to know what YOU think is the connection between genetics and racism. I’m not so much interested in how frequently you see “declarations” as that is just too abstract. I am not interested in arguing with unknown people from your past. Let’s deal with the here and now and the opinions of those in the room.

              2. Seth, one could agree with what you say but still want to know: who are the racists in this specific story? E. O. Wilson? Bueller? Anyone?

              3. Paul: I think that the broad social effects which are contentious can readily be 100% environmental, and there’s SUCH a long history of supposed genetic explanations which turned out to be pure rationalization for racism, as to render any current such explanation attempts extremely suspect just on probability alone. I’m quite aware of all the standard arguments back and forth in the debate (and I don’t want to go through them all!). But if you’re asking me my view in sum, while I don’t agree with much of the theory of the woke, I do think they are more right than their opponents on the practical matter that there’s a politics here which affects the way the issue is framed and what drives it.

              4. The trouble is that the so-called “woke” view operates on the assumption that racism is an essential trait of white people, an “original sin”. The only thing that could be done about it is checking your privilege, according to Di`angelo and Kendi, and well, making sure minorities are equally represented as drone operators, arms dealers or billionaires.

                Q. And a point we [the world socialist web site] made in our response to the 1619 Project, is that it dovetails also with the major political thrust of the Democratic Party, identity politics. And the claim that is made, and I think it’s almost become a commonplace, is that slavery is the uniquely American “original sin.”

                A. Yes. “Original sin,” that’s one of them. The other is that slavery or racism is built into the DNA of America. These are really dangerous tropes. They’re not only ahistorical, they’re actually anti-historical. The function of those tropes is to deny change over time. It goes back to those analogies. They say, “look at how terribly black people were treated under slavery. And look at the incarceration rate for black people today. It’s the same thing.” Nothing changes. There has been no industrialization. There has been no Great Migration. We’re all in the same boat we were back then. And that’s what original sin is. It’s passed down. Every single generation is born with the same original sin. And the worst thing about it is that it leads to political paralysis. It’s always been here. There’s nothing we can do to get out of it. If it’s the DNA, there’s nothing you can do. What do you do? Alter your DNA? — “An interview with historian James Oakes on the New York Times’ 1619 Project” by Tom Mackaman, 18 November 2019

                Also see “The Left Case Against the 1619 Project — James Oakes (Full Interview)” on The Jacobin channel (YouTube).

              5. I think I’ve spotted your mistake. You’ve categorized the Woke’s opponents as coming from the Right. I think I can safely say that our host on this website, and most of the commenters, are from the Left and Center.

              6. Seth wrote:
                > while I don’t agree with much of the theory of the woke, I do think they are more right than their opponents

                Do you find that their opponents are homogeneous enough to make that kind of generalization?

              7. Seth: “there’s SUCH a long history of supposed genetic explanations which turned out to be pure rationalization for racism, …”

                Can you give some examples? Yes, there’s been a long history of pseudoscience about race, but it’s only relatively recently that we’ve known enough about genetics for it to feature.

              8. Anonymous, Sorry – please note the restrictive clause on that sentence: “… while I don’t agree with much of the theory of the woke, I do think they are more right than their opponents on the practical matter that there’s a politics here which affects the way the issue is framed and what drives it.”

                Yes, I think for the sake of a brief comment, it’s reasonable to generalize that there are very broadly two difference perspectives relating to the issue of analyzing individual genetics as it pertains to the large scale structure of society. Of course at finer levels there is more complexity. But again, a very high-level view here can describe useful summary positions, keeping in mind it’s an overview.

              9. This is a reply to Aneris.

                I disagree with your analysis. To say that racism is in the DNA of white America is a metaphor. That is, racism is a cultural value that is passed on from generation to generation, just like the rituals and tenets of a religion. Here is what I consider a useful analogy. Imagine a person with a fever of 106 degrees. That person is very sick. Medication is administered and the fever goes down to 103 degrees. The person is “better” than previously, but is still very sick. So, yes, Black people are better off than in the days of slavery, but all too many white Americans do not want them to be accepted as full and equal members of society. Much work remains to be done to make the “patient” (American society) fully healthy. And although one may dispute the details of the 1619 Project or the cures it recommends to solve the problem it discusses, its basic theme is correct: American society was shaped to a very large degree by slavery and its lingering aftereffect of racism. The scholarly literature overwhelmingly supports this contention.

              10. Sure, it is a metaphor. And so is relativity. And so is covariance. And axes. And intersecting.

                It’s a metaphor storm intended to bewilder the reader.

              11. Large scale slavery existed for thousands of years not hundreds. A simple search for “Egypt slavery Nubians” will get you there. There is nothing unique or special about the “modern” existence of slavery that leaves some special connection with America or the modern world. The problem of slavery is an ancient human problem. The same can be said for all forms of Us vs Them (racism, bigotry, etc.)

                History didn’t turn out with the current layout of who has the most power by some grand design or plan by one people over another. Much of it was chance. The industrial revolution could have happened in China many years before it happened in the west if not for the actions of tyrannical leaders. If that had happened then the layout of today’s countries would likely be very different. The same can be said if the industrial revolution had begun in the middle east or in Africa.

                People that wallow in these ideas are either ignorant of history beyond just the past few hundred years or have an ulterior motive.

                The woke completely ignore the fact that the trajectory of the modern world out of those dark days of the past is still underway and was never going to be exponential or a line straight up going from dark to light instantly. They also ignore human nature is not likely to ever lead to a “circle of love” between all people. Neighbors do not like neighbors, brothers do not like each other, friends stop being friends. The woke need to learn to live with the reality of human nature just as much as humanity, as a whole, finds that there is more advantage in teamwork than tribalism.

            2. Coel: “The Mismeasure Of Man”? Do I really have to start citing and documenting whole sordid past of justifying slavery and then oppression by the trope that it was genetic destiny? No offense intended, but as an observation, there’s some days I really understand the woke slogan of “It’s not my job to educate you”. Yes, that can function as a lazy cop-out, of not justifying one’s assertions. But it can also be an expression of frustration, a “do I really have to do this?”. Can’t I just assume people here know this aspect of history? And if they don’t, what does it say in practice if someone is expected to calmly explain it all? Can most people do it, or will human flaws be abundantly on display? Once more, I don’t agree with the woke on ideology. But often I can see where they are coming from.

              1. “Once more, I don’t agree with the woke on ideology. But often I can see where they are coming from.”

                It sounds like you want it both ways. You don’t like what the Woke believe but appreciate their position. Which is it?

              2. It’s the cliche “I agree with your goals but I disagree with your tactics” viewpoint.

                1) “There’s a huge amount of racism in society. The effects of slavery were extremely destructive, and continue on to this day. Many people are prejudiced even if it’s impolite to admit it in public. There’s significant denial, because it’s very unpleasant to do anything but say this is all in the distant past and doesn’t matter today …”

                Yes, I agree. This accurately describes reality in my view.

                2) “Therefore, we should set up a Department Of Anti-Racism. This department will have far ranging powers to intervene anywhere, and mete out extensive punishments. There should be a strict speech code, in which anyone who says anything deemed racist (very broad defined) will lose their job. All mentions of unacceptable historical figures will be purged from all contexts. …”

                NOOO. This is a horror. I oppose it completely. It can lead to rivers of blood.

                I don’t see agreeing with 1 and disagreeing with 2 as in any way in conflict. If you think that there is a conflict, consider why there’s a such a mistrust that genetic high-level behavior speculations connect to pseudoscientific justifications for racism (i.e. the same process at work, someone claiming they don’t go together is trying to have it both ways).

              3. #1 is fine as far as it goes but when the Woke assume if you’re white, you’re a racist at heart, we have a problem. Their use of “equity” is also a big problem. They feel that if there’s inequality of outcome, it’s the result of a racist process that must be completely dismantled. This is the basis for their dislike of meritocracy. They don’t want to spend the time looking for the real cause of disparate outcomes but just throw away the whole thing. This is lazy and terribly destructive to society. To borrow their words, they don’t want to do the work.

              4. As I said “… I don’t agree with the woke on ideology. But often I can see where they are coming from.”.

                The woke’s “solutions” are terrible. But often anti-woke’s don’t admit there’s a problem.

              5. I agree with much of what Seth says, except for the point that “genetics” in the narrow sense is not guilty of old style scientific racism because molecular genetics is too young for that, and within genetics, I see no-one trying to justify racism, no one trying to find a genetic basis for US intergroup differences in academic achievement.
                The infamous scientific racist Jensen or the even worse Lynn were psychologist AFAIK, not geneticists. Murray of Bell curve fame isn’t a geneticist either.
                To say (like the article does) that racism is inherent in genetics of all subjects overdoes it, that would only be true if social outcomes like lower academic achievement or higher violent crime were indeed genetically based to a relevant degree (and then it would not be a moral fault of genetics). Up to now, research hasn’t shown anything like that. The problem is that a much more likely environmental explanation, US black culture (in addition to low parental SES, which however doesn’t fully explain US black’s low achievement)-is also deemed racist by the woke, despite the fact that no one seems to have a problem with culture as the major determinant of European American underachievement compared to Asians.

          3. I am a bit baffled by your posts in this thread. The original post did not make any comment on whether racism exists, whether science has been misused in the past to justify it or whether there are substantial parts of current day society who continue to be disadvantaged by structural racism. What it did do was to argue that there is no evidence to suggest that EO Wilson was a racist and that the work he carried out and published was not racist. The problematic issue for some people, apparently, is that Wilson argued that human behaviour is in part determined by genetics. He did not suggest that it was solely determined by genetics or that culture and environment are not also important determinants of behaviour. If you think that genetics has no bearing on human behaviour (or that it is racist to think that it does) perhaps you should explain your reasoning.
            The SA article seeks to trash the reputation of a decent and distinguished and recently dead biologist without any basis for doing so. That is reprehensible and not justified by any amount of injustice that may exist in the world.

            1. I think the SciAm article is a way over-the-top extremely poorly written and reasoned piece. But it comes out of a deep controversy, and I have a great deal of sympathy for what drives such a perspective overall. When I expressed this sympathy, it’s viewed as sympathy for the devil. Note I’ve repeatedly explained my reasoning. People don’t hear it:

              “I think that the broad social effects which are contentious can readily be 100% environmental, and there’s SUCH a long history of supposed genetic explanations which turned out to be pure rationalization for racism, as to render any current such explanation attempts extremely suspect just on probability alone. I’m quite aware of all the standard arguments back and forth in the debate (and I don’t want to go through them all!). ”

              People don’t hear it for a reason. There is a standard script in these debates, which is try to go from small claims which are true to suggest large claims which are very dubious. When one pushes back on the large claims, one tactic is to paint it as denial of the small claims, and then to try work the implication back to the big claims (the dreaded “motte-and-bailey”). I know the arguments well enough to cast what I say to avoid the standard traps. But the cycle is almost pre-ordained.

              The article is essentially using E.O Wilson’s death as a hook for author’s views on genetic determinism. Again, it’s very bad, but it’s explicitly far more about that issue overall than him personally.

              1. This argument is similar to the defenses of Tawana Brawley, Jussie Smollett, and others who confected hate crimes. It doesn’t matter whether Jussie faked his own assault, and it doesn’t even matter if Jussie ever experienced bigotry and discrimination himself, because he’s a gay Black man and there is a long deep history of bigotry against other gay and Black people. Similarly, it doesn’t matter whether Ed Wilson was a racist in the here and now, because McLemore is just using his death as a reason to write about a lot of other racists in the distant past. Wilfred Reilly has written and spoken about these issues with clarity.

              2. Right. We should call it a “heart’s in the right place” argument. What they’re actually saying is complete BS but it’s against racism so we mustn’t complain too much about it. My response to this is another old proverb, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

              3. “Again, it’s very bad, but it’s explicitly far more about that issue overall than him personally.”

                Only in your mind. The article has a title, “The Complicated Legacy of E. O. Wilson”, and subtitle, “We must reckon with his and other scientists’ racist ideas if we want an equitable future.” It is most definitely about Wilson and his supposed racism.

              4. “But it comes out of a deep controversy, and I have a great deal of sympathy for what drives such a perspective overall. When I expressed this sympathy, it’s viewed as sympathy for the devil.”

                But this makes no sense and if I may say so you are offering a straw man argument. I have great sympathy for the victims of racism – as I am sure do most people commenting on this thread. I understand that it is a real problem that exists today and that many people are disadvantaged in life simply because of the colour of their skin. But making baseless accusations of racism against individual persons and seeking to trash their reputation without evidence or justification does not in any way help to solve the problem of racism and I do not have sympathy for that and do not see why you should either. The ‘devil’ you are being criticised for sympathising with is the disregard for truth, NOT the desire to challenge racism.

                The article was written by a university professor and published in a magazine that pretends to be a serious publication and neither can be excused for having such scant regard for truth and facts in this article.

              5. And the impetus is Wilson’s death.

                Imagine reading a litany of grievances at someone’s burial.

              6. Consider this abstraction:

                Statement: “I sympathize with your goals but not your tactics”.

                Response: “But the bad tacit does not advance the goal, and I don’t have any sympathy for the bad tactic and don’t see why you should either. You’re being criticized for sympathizing with the bad tactic, not the goal.”

                But the above would be false here. I have not said anything at all to support “disregard for truth”, except if that’s construed broadly as intrinsically implicit. That would be the same argument as if someone says some terrorists have motives which come out of bad US foreign policy, then that’s supporting terrorism, because terrorism is bad no matter what the reason (and terrorism doesn’t solve the problem, etc).

                The article’s being piled-on to high heaven, with people falling over themselves to denounce the specific mistakes. I don’t feel any particular need to repeatedly join the chorus on that verse, though I did then make it clear I’m of the same view about its lack of quality. But the subthread started when I replied about another comment connecting to the politics of genetic determinism in general, and evolved from there.

                And I have no idea how to encourage careful articles on any topic in the clickbait world we live in.

              7. Let’s go with your analogy.

                Even if terrorists were motivated by legitimate complaints over US foreign policy, would we really base our future foreign policy on what they had to say? We would probably just listen to them for hints as to how to combat them rather than enlisting them as foreign policy advisers. Their tactics disqualify them as sources of reason. If we listened to the terrorists’ advice, that would simply encourage more terrorism.

                I’m sure you can see where I’m taking this. Yes, the writer of this article is a sort of terrorist. They aren’t advocating violence but are simply using unreasonable and unconstructive tactics. I, for one, choose not to encourage these tactics. Let’s deal with racism but not by throwing dead scientists under the bus using lies.

          4. And you said it yourself, via pseudoscience. Seasoning pernicious falsehoods with scientific terms in no way implicates the science itself nor anyone who legitimately practices it.

  1. can attribute its content only to a combination of ignorance (perhaps deliberate) or a woke desire to take down someone as a racist who wasn’t a racist.

    Wokeism is blank-slateist to its core (even biological sex is a “social construction”, whereas the more important “gender identity” is some sort of dualistic soul).

    Thus any linking of human behaviour to genetics gets labelled “racist” as a sort of scorched-earth policy surrounding any topic even tangentially relevant to racism, a deliberate policy of trying to make toxic anything other than blank-slateism.

    Let me guess, Monica McLemore was a diversity hire?

    1. She dines out on a handful of her papers on some obscure cancer-related gene from her PhD research. Makes a big deal about how she was trained by a molecular biologist. But almost all of her own research is on social determinants of health, structural racism, and health inequity. Very few citations of her research; vast majority of her Google Scholar citations are to a book she edited (along with several others) on nursing policy, and a blog post (seriously) on racism in health care.

      She has been tweeting about her Wilson take-down. Tweets a lot (really a lot), “folx” instead of folks, that kind of thing 🙁

      1. Makes a big deal about how she was trained by a molecular biologist.”

        As soon as you hear “trained by a molecular biologist,” you know she isn’t a “biologist.” When is the last time you heard a CERN physicist boast about being “trained by a particle physicist?”

        “But almost all of her own research is on social determinants of health, structural racism, and health inequity.”

        I’m not exaggerating when I say that social constructionism is one of the largest frauds perpetrated on the public in the last 40 years.

  2. I stopped my subscription to SA 3 decades ago, because i found it to be too superficial. But it did not publish woke nonsense then. If I hadn’t, I could do it now, but that arrow has already flown.
    Has it something to do with nurses? Clearwater of NZ notoriety is a nurse too 🤪.
    Seriously, one cannot take this seriously:’problematic ‘ here and ‘problematic ‘ there is neither here nor there.
    She does not in any way show where Wilson was wrong, nor where he was racist. It is a low hatchet-job. Unconscionable

    1. Amongst the “wokerati” any dismissal (even the mildest criticism) of McLemore is likely to be “experienced” as “problematic”, since her identity entitles her to immunity from any negative assessment, which can only derive from hostility not to her ideas, but to her membership in at least two marginalized and victimized groups.

      1. You’re right, it’ll just be seen as a old(-ish!) white, European-origin male (Jerry) defending an old, white, European-origin male (Wilson). The actual merits of the article and the critique will not enter into it.

          1. Don’t let them take our words away!’

            Too late! Following one of her self-referring links, I came upon this phrase, repeated in several slight variations, ‘people with capacity for pregnancy or pregnant capable people’, and thought to myself, ‘Didn’t there used to be a single word in English which conveniently expressed this concept?’ but couldn’t find it in my NewSpeak dictionary (2021 edition)

            1. What was the ‘single word’ in English that included all fertile female humans, to the exclusion of pre-pubescent girls and post-menopausal women?

              1. Anonymous: I the he means the word woman, given a “normal distribution” of fertility.

            2. Tread carefully. This is dangerously close the question that JK Rowling got vilified for. The exact quote:

              “‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”

              This is the tweet that exploded her world.

              1. And what was the term for people who menstruate? It can’t be ‘women’; menopause usually starts around age 50. My grandmother is still a woman. I also hesitate to use the term ‘women’ to describe girls who menstruate; anecdotally, I have heard that menstruation happens at earlier and earlier ages now, but won’t attest to that.

                I hate to fixate on the topic, with two posts in this thread; I haven’t brought it up in other threads, and will not continue in this one. I just want to make sure that we are clear that not all women (adult humans with XX chromosomes. I’m still not clear on humans with XXY chromosomes.) menstruate or are capable of being impregnated. This is a significant category error, and I hope that we use more consistent definitions.

                I suspect that languages more gendered than English could have an applicable feminine-gendered noun, ‘fertila’, but so far, I’m only finding it as an adjective.
                https://www.cnrtl.fr/definition/fertile

                I hope that no one here is suggesting that my grandmother is not a woman because she does not currently menstruate and cannot currently get pregnant.

              2. No one thinks that, Anonymous, and you know it.

                I suspect two errors here. One, “people who menstruate are women” doesn’t mean that someone who doesn’t menstruate is not a woman. “People smoking cigarettes are smokers” doesn’t mean that we are defining “smokers” as *only* those who are smoking cigarettes; just that “smokers” is a good term to use when talking about this group of people.

                Two, we aren’t talking about a technical definition that precisely captures all relevant detail in every possible situation, here; that’s difficult to do for almost any word; we’re talking about a convenient shorthand to describe the vast majority of cases. “People who menstruate” is usually interpreted to mean “people who would normally undergo menstruation at one point in their lives” — just as talking about “smokers” isn’t invalidated because people can quit in the future, or “caffeine” doesn’t cause confusion when described as “a stimulant when consumed by humans” (“my grandmother doesn’t get any stimulant effect from caffeine, are you saying *she isn’t a human?!*— no, shut up, no one is actually confused by this).

  3. I see versions of her excuse for not citing Wilson’s work all the time, when someone online makes an absurd assertion (“Lincoln was a slave owner!”-yes, people have said that). When challenged, they say “I’m not going to do your research for you.”

    1. “I’m not going to do your research for you,” is bogus, except when it isn’t. As with everything any given real world situation is more complicated. In this particular situation it’s about as bogus as it gets.

      1. It’s also exactly the same excuse that 9/11 Truthers used back in the day. When called on their nonsense the typical response was ‘I’m only asking questions.’, followed by ‘Do your own research’ which usually meant watching a bunch of YouTube conspiracy videos.

        The dynamic of the ‘Woke’ is therefore not all that different from common or garden conspiracy theorists. Sadly their ‘mutated Literary Criticism’ has managed to take over the world.

      2. “As with everything any given real world situation is more complicated.”

        One might say it is … “complicationatic”

        [ just having word fun here on the theme of “problematic” – apologies ]

  4. Exasperating drivel at Scientific American. As a poetic favor to its arrogant and lazy author, we could all refer to the piece without using her name, for she has penned something that doesn’t warrant citation or airtime, other than to duly deride Scientific American for its promotion of thick ideology.

    The ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) of genetics crowd has worsened the scientific discourse by masquerading PoMo as sound scholarship — training and encouraging people of color, like the inept author, to interrupt narratives they don’t like with tactics akin to vandalism. ELSI is largely thugs.

    (Ceiling Cat: extra word in “If Wilson was a racist, shouldn’t McLemore should have adduced evidence for that? I see none.”)

  5. This article makes something clear to me: Wokeness is, in large part, another kind of populist anti-elite disrespect.

    Just as the invermectin crowd are emboldened now to tell once-respected institutions, and their representatives, that they are idiots, in public, and expect applause, without any doubts about their lack of actual relevant knowledge. So too the kendi-diangelists are emboldened to publicly claim that great men are idiots, and expect applause, without any doubts about their lack of actual relevant knowledge.

    The difference is that the antivaxers tend not to have jobs within (formerly) elite institutions. They are need to work from outside, which makes them easier for some to dismiss. But the antiracists have no more right to such positions, it’s some bizarre degradation that people perhaps qualified for the facilities and catering department have instead been hired for white-collar jobs. Some even get called “professor”. But we should not confuse parts of the right’s rejection of them, with the rejection of real expertise, even if both get called “elite” sometimes, and both are rejected by the same people sometimes. These are two phenomena.

    1. You’re right. And it’s something shared by all radicals. The message becomes their entire world and everyone that doesn’t embrace it is the enemy. They are so sure of their righteousness that they no longer see the need to support their claims with evidence. There’s no grey, just black and white. Their only audience is themselves.

      1. Oh dear! ‘And it’s something shared by all radicals’? As someone who is avowedly radical and antiracist, and is also a recently retired scientist, I agree the article in question is utter tripe on so many levels and I have enormous respect for E O Wilson and his work, much of which seems on the money to me.
        However, this obsession with ‘wokeness’ and its supposed horrors is generating some quite unpleasant (and false) generalisations, along with the occasional blatantly racist statement on this thread. I get that there are abuses of reasoned discourse, likely often shaped by a preconceived conviction that racism lurks everywhere, but it is absurd and very dangerous to get so emotionally wound up about what is, at heart, a widespread antidiscrimination movement that every reasonable human being should be in some sympathy with. When I first came across the term ‘woke’ it seemed a perfectly reasonable and even anodyne concept. It has since been completely weaponised (in the same way as ‘Antifa’) by the far right as a means of trying to normalise their racist and anti-democratic agenda. To use the term ‘antiracist’ in a pejorative way, as I have seen at least once on this thread, is to appear to be an anti-antiracist. I can think of a simpler synonym for this.

        1. Sorry, but I reject your tut-tutting that we’re “emotionally wound up”. “Angry at a stupid article that impugns someone I respect is better.” And “woke” has long had its pejorative meaning and everybody knows this here. Further, nobody who uses that word I know of is a racist. And neither I nor the vast majority of the readers are from the “far right”.

          If you’re accusing someone on this thread of being racist, tell us who they are.

          This is your first post, so try to be more civil and avoid accusing people of being racist and right-wingers.

        2. I hope it’s obvious that “antiracist” and “antifa” both have meanings besides being opposed to racism, or fascism. They are trademark terms of certain movements, terms which advocates have adopted to describe themselves. Describing groups of people by terms they use to describe themselves (whether they live in igloos or ivory towers) seems like the neutral position.

          They are both very clever terms, though, precisely because they also have this ordinary meaning. Open opponents of BLM (ᵀᴹ) can likewise be smeared (by a linguistic sleight of hand) as believing that black lives do not matter. And those who haven’t quite figured out what the movement stands for may tend to assume it stands for what it says it stands for, and hence not oppose it — just as all the respondents yesterday assumed that arabic numbers must be something foreign, guessing from the name.

          > what is, at heart, a widespread antidiscrimination movement

          How do we discern what a movement is “at heart”? By its PR? Is the leninsim “at heart” a movement for material plenty and equality of mankind? Or is it a system of power, with a clever scheme to co-opt useful idiots? Some of us like data. Counting bodies in the morgue, that sort of thing.

        3. These days there’s a big difference between being anti-racist, simply being against racism, and being a believer in Anti-racism, the Woke religion. Perhaps you are confusing the two. That’s understandable since we aren’t that careful here with our capitalization. There’s a similar dichotomy with “woke”, acknowledging the existence of racism, and being Woke, subscribing to a whole raft of illiberal ideas. I’m very much the former rather than the latter on both of these. I suspect that’s the case with most who comment here.

            1. What infuriates ME is that people like you come over here for the first (and last) time and tell us how to use a word which is now quite common on this site and general discourse. Have you read anything on this site or anything ANYWHERE. Well, I wish I could say it was a pleasure having you post for the first time, but the real pleasure is that this post will be the only one you ever write on this site.

              Chill out!

            2. It’s not ideal terminology but it is what we have. I like to capitalize Woke in this context so it identifies a group with shared beliefs and minimizes the confusion you refer to.

        4. “I get that there are abuses of reasoned discourse.” I’m not a philosopher, but I think this is called a category error.

          In answering the rest of Andy’s charge, I favour (1) reading and taking at his word what Ibram X. Kendi says is antiracism (hint, it is most def not “a widespread antidiscrimination movement that every reasonable human being should be in some sympathy with”).

          Also (2) this meme from Colin Wright (https://twitter.com/swipewright/status/1423796796854206464)

        5. I agree that the term antiracist is used improperly. They should properly refer to themselves as counterracist.
          These days, if you see some White kids screaming racial slurs at a Black man, it is likely that they are leftists, and he is a cop or someone they perceive as possibly a conservative. That makes me think that perhaps their screaming about other’s racism is a bit performative, and not terribly genuine.
          We have seen, over and over, that they will accuse people of racism simply for disagreeing with them on even a minor point of politics, unrelated to race.
          Antifascists, as they strive to emulate traditional fascist practices, might also be more accurately called counterfascists.

          These terms, and “woke”, are how they choose to describe themselves. It is their behavior that turns these terms into pejoratives. When a group of antifascists dress up like ISIS executioners, spray antisemitic slurs on Synagogues and smash windows of Jewish businesses, it is hard to take their claims of opposing fascism seriously.

          Of course, the groups that adhere to those terms have enough power that they are able to rewrite the popular definitions of both terms, to exclude themselves. That is a Stalinist practice.

    2. Well there’s far too many supposed medical “professionals” that are all-in on anti-vaxxing but I take your point.

      1. This is true. My guess is that doctors 50 years ago would have been more hesitant to go this path, more deferential to their field’s authority figures? The village doctor representing his august profession among the commoners, rather than representing his volk against the ivory tower.

        There are also far too many supposed scientists who are all-in on woke nonsense. I would like to think that many would once have been more ready to ask for data, happier to scoff at (say) freudian nonsense, than they are today to scoff at (say) implicit bias or stereotype threat etc. But I’m not sure that this is true. Certainly more would openly mock christianity 50 years ago than would openly mock antiracism today.

    3. For Pawel since the thread is long and I wish to be clear as to whom the comment is directed.

      There is a critical difference between the anti-elite Woke and the anti-elite rightist members that are part of the Trump cult. They both find that the elites serve as punching bags for their discontent, but for very different reasons. The latter despise the elites of society whom they feel disrespect them and are the harbingers of cultural change that they cannot abide. This is why the anti-mask and anti-vaccine people are so belligerent in their symbolic, but deadly, refusals to take simple measures to protect public health. Because the elites of society, those in the scientific world, say that masks and vaccines are good, for the cultists they must be bad. In contrast to the right that wishes to demean the role of elites in societies, the Woke are seething with anger as well, but for a different reason. They want to become part of the elite, a position in society they feel has been denied them largely because of racism. In their radical attempt to expose and condemn those in the elites they perceive as racists, they hope that through inculcating shame and guilt among the elites, room will be made for them in the upper echelons of society now dominated by white supremacy, thus garnering them the respect that they deserve.

      1. > the Woke are seething with anger as well, but for a different reason. They want to become part of the elite, a position in society

        This is where I think we differ. They want to become part of the elite *only* in that they wish to take over the position in society, the respect, the money.

        They do not wish to become part of what traditionally defined the academic elite. They do not wish that more non-white people should inherit and marvel at Newton’s insight that scribbles on a blackboard could describe both apples and Pluto; instead they wish to destroy this occupation entirely. Replace it with people deeply interested in their skin, and comparing their genitals to other people’s. (But keep the air conditioning and the air travel, of course.)

        They do not wish that more non-white people should join in the task of learning what the Babylonians knew (IIRC we have read only a few percent of the Sumerian tablets dug up, so we have no idea what we’re missing); instead, they wish to discredit and destroy this whole enterprise as “Orientalist”… replace it with people moaning about how 20 years of being a French colony a century ago is why such lands produce nothing but oil and suicide bombers.

        They would like, however, to keep the nice building, its name, and its endowment. That’s where they differ from the Trumpists, who perhaps less hypocritically would not even keep these. (I guess they’d like the money back, since much of it is taxes.)

        I do think both are driven by resentment. And what shines out of this piece is a kind of “physics envy”, a deep loathing of the respect given to fields which have achieved something. Maybe that’s what I hadn’t seen so much before. It seems not so different to the resentment of the winners of 21st century economic life, where land and factories aren’t important anymore. It’s populist in that you need no special qualifications to join in, no mastery of mathematics, no ancient languages. The elites they despise are slightly different, across the campus rather than out there on the coasts.

  6. This sentence gives her whole game away:
    “Other scholars have pointed out that feminist standpoint theory is helpful in understanding white empiricism and who is eligible to be a worthy observer of the human condition and our world.”

    Wilson is simply not eligible to address the human condition. Or for that matter anyone who doesn’t agree with Ms. McLemore’s opinions.

    This is how the Woke phrase their arguments, it’s not whether your points are valid but whether you’re entitled to them by who you are. A bit ironic.

    1. “…it’s not whether your points are valid but whether you’re entitled to them by who you are”

      This works until someone with all the right superficial characteristics comes along and calls these arguments by their correct technical description: “BS”. People such as John McWhorter. These sorts are then dismissed as being race traitors and whatnot.

  7. From the editor’s Wiki page
    “Throughout the course of her career, Helmuth has developed a reputation for bringing rigor to coverage of science”

  8. Yeah, I’m done with SciAm, too. I remember fondly reading my dad’s SciAms *way* before I was old enough to understand even as a lay adult – I’d get a few paragraphs in and give up, but I knew it was valuable stuff, so I tried.

    I had the opportunity to get a gift subscription recently, but I didn’t, largely based on PCC(E)’s reviews here, and with today’s review, I’m very happy I made that decision.

    1. That’s the spirit! You were meant to be able to understand only a portion of most articles, but if you stayed with the magazine, the portion got larger, and if you were taking the subject at the undergrad level, the portion for a relevant article could well reach, oh, two-thirds or so. 😉

      In the good old days, many subscribers wrote letters to the editor making exactly your point.

  9. How does the normal distribution “assume” that there are “default humans”? When a normal distribution exists, doesn’t it just…exist?

    1. That statistical tool assumes some people are “normal” and the others are misfits who probably need conversion therapy or concentration camps.

      It’s the word. Words have power to control. Scientists are being controlled by words which turn them into bigots. Intent doesn’t matter.

      This seems plausible to many because it’s simple, clear, and wrong. It’s also a tactic they make use of themselves.

      1. While I’m sure that would be her counterargument, it would only be so once she was told that the words she used don’t actually have the same meaning in statistics/science as they do colloquially, and thus she had absolutely no idea what she was talking about.

        1. Reading her tw**ter, it appears her response is just to say that bigots are inundating her social media. Hasn’t addressed a single question except the one to which Jerry referred (she didn’t include any of his actual work because she wants people to read it on their own!). Because people like her don’t make mistakes. “Mistakes” in a piece like this are just things bigots try to use to destroy the important work of brave, selfless people like her.

    2. Well, normal distributions are usually of variables, not human populations per se. And the term “normal” refers to certain mathematical properties of the distribution; it isn’t a reference to a feature of a human population that is to be used as a standard.

    3. I came here to talk about this. I think she’s latched on to the word “normal” and assumed it has more or less the same meaning as it does in non technical contexts. i.e. there is a “normal” sample (the average or mean) and everything else is categorised based on how it deviates from that normal sample.

      If that’s the case then it indicates a profound ignorance of science and statistics.

  10. The article is all of a piece, trumpeting the problematic racism of statistics, genetics, and “white empiricism”, which of course incriminates Darwin, Mendel, and everyone else involved in the problematic scientific method.
    [Ms. McLemore, whose own work is rooted in “reproductive justice theory”, is a perfect representative of the contemporary academic scene.] We can soon expect Scientific American to publish explicit denunciations not only of Mendel, but of August Weisman, Thomas Hunt Morgan, Gaunt, Laplace, Fermat, Pascal, Bayes, and probably of Newton and Galileo. After all, none of these problematic individuals figure in “reproductive justice theory” or in “feminist standpoint theory”, whatever that is.

    1. “Feminist standpoint theory” is just “standpoint theory” and it’s utter trash. It assumes that any given group is a better qualified to speak for themselves than any nebulous “objective” (which they sneer at) outsider. If anyone starts justifying themselves on the basis of “standpoint theory” run away really fast.

  11. Very sad, but not unexpected.
    E.O. Wilsons’ great legacy is real and true, even if the man was not always right. This bilge water piece is mainly damaging to a once great magazine – it can’t possibly effect its intended target since it is beyond ridiculous.

  12. Jesus, that’s an amateurish piece. The prose are turgid, and there’s no effort to connect its assertions (whatever they mean) to anything in Wilson’s work.

    Have they no editors left at Scientific American?

      1. That could just be editor-speak for “by putting in this short postmodern hit piece on a scientist who is dead, I bet I’ll be able to get away with turning down a bunch of long postmodern hit pieces on scientists who are very much alive!” She didn’t specify who had the insight, or what it was.

        That might be a too optimistic interpretation, though.

    1. I initially took that as an allusion to the title of Daniel Dennett’s book, but may have been giving the author too much credit.

  13. This piece is not at all about Ed Wilson, the eminent scientist. The author simply uses his name as an excuse to go on an uninformed rant. Using Wilson’s name for that purpose is intellectually dishonest to say the least.

    It’s disappointing that Scientific American published what is at base a political polemic that is based on a lie about Wilson. I would like to think that Laura Helmuth and her staff know better. Even an invited article—one not subject to prior peer review—deserves some editorial scrutiny. Either this article was published without scrutiny, or the Scientific American editorial process is deeply flawed.

  14. If this was in the UK I’d be considering a complaint to our press regulator or encouraging Wilson’s relatives to do so. Mendel being branded a racist when he only wrote about pea plants is just barking mad.

      1. Well, it’s handy that EO Wilson conveniently died before McLemore wrote her piece, isn’t it? Presumably she formed her views some time ago. Shame she didn’t have the guts to express them while he was alive.

  15. “I really can’t go on, except to add two things. First, McLemore herself is being unscientific in accusing “problematic” Ed Wilson of racism without mentioning one bit of evidence”

    I’m sure Titania McGrath would agree that slander is not a problem when done by the right persons. Sadly people like McLemore seem to think that seriously.

    [McLemore:] “First, the so-called normal distribution of statistics assumes that there are default humans who serve as the standard that the rest of us can be accurately measured against”

    Statistical distributions illustrate that populations are not uniform but diverse. They reveal diversity, not hide it. Does she think that the “central” people should not exist because they are more numerous than the extreme?

    1. I’m British so I don’t know about educational requirements in the USA, but I’d guess it would be possible to get into nursing – the author’s field without a great deal of mathematical education beyond that done in high school. In the UK we have specific exams in specific subjects and you’d need reasonable maths and English grades to get an university education even then I think you could get into nursing without an understanding of statistics. It really does seem as if the true meaning of “normal distribution” is not part of her knowledge.

      1. Making nursing a degree level subject approx 20 years ago(?) was a big mistake. It discouraged able caring people who not academic, & encouraged people who then saw themselves as degree qualified, & so (I would hazard to guess) felt cleaning patients of vomit or whatever was not what they trained to do. I do-not mean that it should not have been possible to do a nursing degree, but surely fir a smaller number who wanted to progress or develop their careers…

        1. My wife’s feelings exactly. She is an RN from the pre-baccalaureate era, steered into nursing from high school because she had science smarts but women weren’t supposed to do university science or medicine back then. (I think she would have excelled at either, certainly the latter.). She qualified for critical care before we met, trained EMTs and helicopter transport teams, all the while keeping green doctors like me from killing her patients. Later she went on to excel in other ways that allowed us to retire early.

          The degree nurses today reach the wards late in their training knowing nothing but POMO Nursing Theory —woke before there was Woke—that is totally useless for actually caring for a sick patient, or knowing when a well one is going to crash. The disaffected ones do mental health—the cleanest, being all talk and no action and no shift work—where they start on the EDI path that leads to vice -chancellor in Auckland. The out-of-the-box thinkers today switch into medicine, much to the annoyance of the Nursing Faculties.

          Now the question: which nurses have chips on their shoulders about doctors? Hint: the critical-care nurses help us figure out how to get the patient through the crisis at 3 a.m., often a step or two ahead of us, and that—the mission—is all that matters. The PhD nurses never see us.

          Oh, do we have pillow talk about academic nurses.

    2. My reading of it is that she thinks the central (or “normal”) people were chosen in advance and they are white men. I’m only doubting my interpretation of her words because, if it is correct, it shows her as being profoundly ignorant about statistics, more ignorant than my credulity is prepared to accept right now.

      1. Oh it’s much worse than that. Being that ignorant would not suffice to produce this.

        You have to also come from a whole culture of ignorance, in which your whole education as to how to write about things is infused with proud ignorance of straightforward concepts. Infused with eagerness to not see clearly, to divine hidden evil motivations for things whose straightforward explanation on wikipedia (and in every encyclopedia for a century) contains words you and everyone you know don’t understand and are ashamed to admit you don’t understand.

  16. “the so-called normal distribution of statistics assumes that there are default humans who serve as the standard that the rest of us can be accurately measured against”

    What is more annoying than the combination of ignorance and confidence? This is classic Dunning-Kruger stuff right here. (On Khan’s Twitter thread someone found a tweet by the author pointing out that she was “lab-trained by a molecular biologist”. Ha! So there’s yer qualifications right there!)

    For this sentence (let alone the rest of it [MENDEL a racist!!]) to be published by Scientific American? It is profoundly disappointing to me.

    1. Statistics provides a useful heuristic for dealing with problematic authors like this. Look at a few random-ish samples of her work, and if they contain high amounts of BS, as a practical matter assume she doesn’t know what she’s talking about and actively avoid her in the future. No need to keep deep-diving in the hope of finding a pony amongst all the HS.

    2. The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt. Bertrand Russell.

  17. When someone writes things like, “I purposively didn’t quote his work . . .,” and, “I talked about citational practices . . .,” my autonomic response is to think poorly of them.

    This really is an awful piece. The author should be embarrassed, but no doubt she is too ignorant and too righteous to understand that.

  18. That’s pretty tragic. It’s a shame Martin Gardner isn’t here to comment – that would have been worth reading. I used to read Scientific American years ago, but stopped as it got ever thinner and less informative. It used to be good. I still have the special issue on “Science in the 20th Century” from 1991, with articles by Schrödinger, Einstein, Weinberg, Crick amongst others – fair to say all by men, and probably white men at that though.

    I did enjoy the the article on “White Empricism” – published by the University of Chicago Press, incidentally – that she links to. Contains many gems:
    “why are string theorists calling for an end to empiricism rather than an end to racial hegemony?” and “Black women must, according to Einstein’s principle of covariance, have an equal claim to objectivity regardless of their simultaneously experiencing intersecting axes of oppression” amongst others.

  19. So I tried to find any sources that link Mendel to racism, and the most I can find are references that say a thing called “social Mendelism”. This appears to be attached to the old eugenics movement. Yes I know that has no connection to Gregor himself.

  20. After several years as a subscriber, I did not renew my subscription to Scientific A. because of all the nonsense that I saw being published on so many things that came within light years of an identity issue. As a non-STEM person, I simply could not trust it.

    There is a massive dumbing down occurring throughout Anglophone academic and general intellectual life and a replacement by ideology as a near constant parameter.

    The future holds many more McLemores. And I bet you not a single one of her peers a UCSan Francisco will take public issue with this piece in SA.

  21. The article’s parade of contemporary academic clichés, such as its reference to such deep insights as “feminist standpoint theory”, led me to consider a little thought-experiment.

    Let us imagine that, one or two generations ago, virtually all the universities in north America had established new departments of Homeopathy, Dianetics Theory, and Critical Astrology Theory. The new departments would have gotten busy setting up systems of mock scholarship, including conferences, symposia, and journals in which their practitioners could “publish” twaddle which cited themselves and each other, thereby confecting academic CVs.
    Now suppose that an experimental test of the character of these journals was conducted by submitting to them a raft of transparently absurd hoax-papers. The journals lap these hoax-papers up, revealing the fraudulence of their entire pseudo-academic act. But the institutions of higher learning do absolutely nothing in response to this experimental result, showing that recognition of empirically established facts is no longer among the “values” of academe.
    As time passes, graduates of the pseudo-academic departments work their way into Professorships and into administrative posts of Associate Dean, Dean, Vice-Provost, Provost, Vice-Chancellor, and so on. From these leadership positions, they busily side-line older academic customs like intellectual integrity, logical consistency, and the recognition of empirically established facts. And they issue incessant pronunciamentos to replace these antique customs with a new set of academic “values”, subsumed under the magic letters D, E, and I.

    Image what the groves of academe would look like today if this series of events had happened! Oh, wait, we don’t have to imagine it.

  22. This makes me seethe with anger. If she had such an issue she could have published this when he was alive & could respond. That she did not shows how pathetic she is. 😡

  23. I’m a frequent reader of Coyne’s blog and often learn from them, but rarely do I laugh out loud. But “Were green peas considered superior to yellow peas?” did the trick.

  24. My iron-clad proof that genes cause DIFFERENCES in cognitive abilities. 1: Humans are smarter than chimps (using any common sense definition of “smarter”). 2: The difference must have evolved since our last common ancestor. 3: Evolution only works when there are heritable (i.e., genetic) differences within a population.

  25. Feminist Standpoint Theory, the weak reasonable version, is simply the recognition that there are lenses, and that lenses can influence behavior, so be careful, watch your own bubble. These lunatics run wild with these ideas, which are at most adjustments, becoming what they claim to despise the most – determinists, but cultural determinists…..it’s not just a part of the story; it’s the whole and only story.

  26. There’s an underlying fallacy that victim groups, and those who support victim groups, build into their ideology. The fallacy is that humans are ‘blank slates’ and if they achieve less than others or don’t do so well that is because external factors (racism, sexism etc.) are used by others to oppress them.

    And yet E O Wilson and Sociobiology, and Steven Pinker and ‘Blank Slate’, together with other approachable popular works show that human behaviours have a general genetic component of approximately 50%. People are not blank slates. What we do about that is a social and political issue.

    Calling even-handed scientists ‘racists’ etc. to protect your blank slate fallacy as a valid ‘belief’ is pure polemics. Shame on Scientific American.

  27. The author cites “white empiricism” which links to a paper. Everything indented is from that paper.

    To develop this idea, I apply an intersectional analysis to Joseph Martin’s concept of prestige asymmetry in physics, developing the concept of white empiricism to discuss the impact that Black women’s exclusion has had on physics epistemology.

    Intersectionality meant originally that identity X or identity Y were each considered within a system (originally law, and especially anti-discrimmination law), but not people who are both X and Y who somehow fall through the cracks, e.g. not hiring black women, and dismissing the problem by showing how either black men or white women were hired. Here, intersectionality is used as a fashionable buzzword to say that when you’re both black and female, then disadvantaged add up.

    She then defines the keyword “white empiricism” mentioned in the Scientific American article as a present situation, where especially white men have a power to determine objectivity, or who is a “valid observer of physical and social phenomena”. Black women’s views in particular were “fundamentally” excluded, says Prescod-Weinstein.

    Because white empiricism contravenes core tenets of modern physics (e.g., covariance and relativity), it negatively impacts scientific outcomes and harms the people who are othered. […] These beliefs can limit investigations of what constitutes a reasonable physical theory, whether the scientific method should be brought to bear on this physical theory, and the capacity to understand how incidents of racism disrupt the potential for objective discourse. Essentially, white empiricism involves a predominantly white, predominantly male professional community selectively failing to apply the scientific method to themselves while using “scientific” evaluation to strengthen the barriers to Black women’s entry into physics. White empiricism is therefore a form of antiempiricism masquerading as an empirical approach to the natural world. By denying agency to Black women in discussions of racism, white empiricism predetermines the experiences of Black women in physics.

    If this sounds confused, it’s not my omitting a part (read the original). She jumps between scientific community, the methods of science, black women reporting racism, and scientific theories back and forth, and relativity. I marked it on first reading, and it should raise an eyebrow when you’re read “Fashionable Nonsense” (Sokal & Bricmont, 1997). She says that dubious claims by white guys, which still enjoy attention (“white empiricism”) are also somehow in conflict with “relativity”. And sure enough, she goes there a few paragraphs later, after briefly lamenting “monist” core assumptions of science, versus other ways of knowing. Allegedly, relativity means …

    All frames of reference, all observers, are equally competent and capable of observing the universal laws that underlie the workings of our physical universe. Yet the number of women in physics remains low, especially those of African descent

    That is a common trope, even stereotype of postmodernism, on two accounts. The first was already described in Fashionable Nonsense, but was later coined memorably as “Motte-And-Bailey Doctrine” by Nicholas Shackel, also thinking of postmodernism in “The Vacuity of Postmodernist Methodology”. It describes a paragraph that has different interpretations where one is trivially true and unexciting, and another which sounds earth-shattering if it were true, but which is also nonsensical. The postmodernist wants to suggest the juicy incredible-if-true bits, and relies on the trivially true interpretation to carry the weight, but it’s at once complete nonsense in context. If challenged, they can back up with the trivial reading.

    The second stereotypical trope of postmodernism is the confusion between relativism and relativity. As Sokal and Bricmont write: “in the former, points of view are subjective and irreconcilable; in the latter, space-time coordinates can be transformed unambiguously between reference frames”. Taken together, you see “postmodern theory” in its purest stereotypical form (there is also postmodern art, and more, all of which is fine). Not convinced, yet? Emphasis added.

    Given that Black women must, according to Einstein’s principle of covariance, have an equal claim to objectivity regardless of their simultaneously experiencing intersecting axes of oppression, we can dispense with any suggestion that the low number of Black women in science indicates any lack of validity on their part as observers. […] Feminist standpoint theory has made a strong case for the myriad ways that race and gender affect the praxis of both social science and life science research (Potter 2006, 132). From this perspective, knowledge is rooted in the observer’s social location or standpoint, and women are epistemically privileged because survival requires them to not only consider their own perspectives but also the perspectives of those more powerful than them. […] Earlier I claimed that the theory of General Relativity implies that there is no hierarchy of observers—that the laws of physics are equally accessible from any frame of reference. There are limitations to this: certain empirical measurements require equipment that is not universally accessible.

    There is one aspect which is true. Undue attention is given to string theory. It’s all here, relativism, standpoint theory, other ways of knowing, complaining about white science, physics envy, the motte-and-bailey switching, confusing relativism with relativity, etcetera. However, Prescod-Weinstein didn’t write the characteristic “gradual crescendo of nonsense”, but rather a stew out every ridicilous postmodernist stereotype. It could be a blast from the past, but was apparently written 2020.

    I’m over the limit word count, but wanted to cite the kind of material Scientific American articles are now based upon.

    ———
    C. Prescod-Weinstein, Making black women scientists under White Empiricism: The Racialization of epistemology in physics. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. 45, 421–447 (2020), doi:10.1086/704991.

    1. I like this analysis – the formula is becoming clear. The origins of it I can take a stab at :

      there was a sort of symbolic universalism in the audience that Ayn Rand and other writers made use of. A sort of mesmerization by words that produced a symbolism – as contrasted with precise technical language – such that, for instance, I invent a test case : “relativity” means the same thing in physics as literally anything else. The mathematics associated with use in physics is just details – “relativity” is discovered by Einstein in physics, but it is really universal.

      I’m just riffing out there, but…

      1. It’s a common feature of language, and thus cognition to push the meaning around via analogy and metaphor. Imagine the first speaker making elaborate air quotes as she exclaims “may I ‘ ‘ draw ’ ’ your attention” invoking perhaps the imagery of a horse that is drawn by the reigns towards a direction.

        Over time the obvious metaphor becomes “dead as a doornail” as Pinker once quibbed. It’s interesting to observe how quotation or scare quotes establish a metaphorical transfer in both directions, towards the new domain when the usage is novel as it was once the case with “drawing attention” but also away as when I’d write Monica R. McLemore is a ‘ ‘ journalist ’ ’ when used with established words.

        In other words, it’s perfectly fine and normal to use metaphors to explain novel ideas. They are everywhere. It’s also a common, and highly productive technique in science, that brought us many insights. An excellent example was provided by Doug Hofstadter in “Surfaces & Essences” about metaphorical waves to make sense of particle behaviour in quantum mechanics. Arguably, the metaphor of a family tree, itself a metaphor from branches in a tree, does heavy lifting to understand evolution and speciation. There are gene “pools”, and “horizontal” gene transfer and (horizontal is also a doubled metaphor). Even maths has not so pure metaphors, as documented in Surfaces & Essences.

        As Sokal and Bricmont, I believe, point out in Fashionable Nonsense, or Noam Chomsky in his “physics envy” criticism of postmodernism, it is not that you cannot use metaphors. Rather, the issue is that a productive use of metaphors help illuminate an unfamiliar domain, whereas postmodernists use highly technical, complicated metaphors to say something that would be easy to understand without them! That is, they use such language to obscure and make their ideas seem more sophistacted than they are. This paper is a great example, too. If you tried to summarise it in plain words, it would come out as either trivially true or fantastical nonsense (depending on interpretation).

  28. Back in the 60s, I used to buy New Scientist, and read SciAm in the school library. In the 90s, I still bought NS occasionally, and encouraged my kids to read both NS and SciAm.

    I would never do either nowadays: both publications have long been circling the drain. But the question then arises: what to use to introduce the next generation to science and rational thinking? In the UK there is a great monthly magazine called Aquila, which is admirably clear and open-minded; but it’s mainly aimed at pre-teens. Where should I direct my bright granddaughter, 11 next spring, to keep her curiosity springs wound up?

    1. To the library. Reading the complete works of Isaac Asimov will keep her occupied for a few years. Seriously, probably the best thing that could happen to a scientifically curious 11-year-old.

  29. the mendel was racist thing set me off. it’s clearly a total fabrication because mendel just didn’t have a big social profile like darwin. did she get ahold of his private letters? and what opinions on race did an austrian monk have?

    it’s a middle-school-grade level lie you put into a book report, and here you got a phd-holder being allowed to write that in scientific american.

    1. “…here you got a phd-holder being allowed to write that in scientific american”

      That she even has a PhD is scandalous.

  30. She is a religious zealot, and her religion is “Structural Racism”. It seems sort of contradictory that she attributes all human behavior and outcomes to SR, although there seems to be no data to support such a claim.
    I am not in a position to criticize Dr. Wilson’s work, but she does not even try to refute his conclusions. They go against her religious beliefs, so they must be wrong.

    As I was driving today, I was listening to a talk on Roman-era fortifications. I noticed that the speaker felt he needed to regularly interrupt his talk to make woke acknowledgements about not judging one culture as more advanced than another, and it was sort of painful to listen to him working so hard to use words that could not be used to criticize him.
    The key to his talk was how the army with the best logistical organization was usually more formidable during a prolonged siege, and he was explaining exactly why. Of course the armies he was talking about all belonged to long-dead empires. In a rational world, nobody could possible be offended on their behalf.

    It struck me that he could not just relate the facts in a normal way because of fear. Fear that children or the ignorant might be angered by his words, and “wish him into the cornfield”.

    https://twilightzone.fandom.com/wiki/It%27s_a_Good_Life

    The evidence, experimental or archeological, is what it is. We might learn more accurate ways to interpret it, but our beliefs should be shaped by what we know to be objective facts. The people who want to edit or ban facts that show their beliefs to be in error are very dangerous people. I personally don’t think most people are taking them anywhere near as seriously as the threat they pose. Nobody ever does, even though it is fairly common through history for events to push progress, and quality of life, back a few hundred years.

  31. It is up to the board of Scientific American to fire the editor. If they do not do so, they are as irresponsible and brainwashed as she is. In any case I will not re subscribe. Life is too short. As for our kids, we need to expose them to credible scientific and natural history writing to counteract what they won’t learn in school. Let’s nominate SA for a different Darwin Award: helping readers to
    hate Darwin and maybe eventually get him removed from libraries.

  32. It’s hard to believe that what I am reading in this disgraceful hit-piece has been published in a magazine, even one like Scientific American. This however might be a good sign, that the woke hysteria has hit bottom. 2022 might be an opportunity if we all keep at it to expose the rot once and for all.

  33. I will be curious to see how this will fit into any further online attacks on Willson’s reputation. A sloppy, mendacious hit piece like this, because it is published in a Journal that has outlived it’s once sterling reputation can provide “Evidence” and justification for further attacks “I read it in Scientific American after all!”

    It is a stone in a descending snowball, becoming an avalanche of defamation. There is a piece in Quillette that is featured as one of their top 10 articles from 2021 about the attack on Jesse Singhal that describes the phenomenon quite well.

    I graduated with 2 degrees from the UCSF School of Nursing. I encountered some lunacy there, but thought that it was confined to the campus. For the first time in 45 years I am ashamed of the place.

    1. I have noticed that a couple of my wife’s nurses practice “therapeutic touch”. I should mention that this, as practiced, does not actually involve touch. It is more like holding your hands over the patient and using the force to heal them. They are great people who do a difficult and demanding job, but belief in energy therapy is not a sign of proof-based scientific thought. I assumed that practice was atypical, but apparently “Healing Touch Program is accredited as a provider of nursing continuing professional development by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.”

      https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12510515/

  34. This writing is why I dropped my subscription to Scientific American and will not buy it again until this sort of nonsense disappears from its content. If this commentary is typical for future scientific thinking, we are lost.

  35. This is a perfect example of the kind of political culture Mclemore hails from: speak as if you know what you’re talking about, deflect every criticism with big words and baseless accusations and demands that other people do the work you’re supposed to have done, and then wrap it up by saying that people who don’t agree with you are racist or, at the very best, deeply ignorant and thus upholding racism.

    She knows nothing, she knows that she knows nothing, and she pretends to know things so a certain political tribe can pretend that the entire world is a problem for them to solve, despite them having none of the tools or knowledge to solve anything, and usually only making any issues that are valid even worse.

    This is an absolute disgrace.

  36. “First, truth and reconciliation are necessary in the scientific record, including attention to citational practices when using or reporting on problematic work. This approach includes thinking critically about where and when to include historically problematic work and the context necessary for readers to understand the limitations of the ideas embedded in it. This will require commitments from journal editors, peer reviewers and the scientific community to invest in retrofitting existing publications with this expertise. They can do so by employing humanities scholars, journalists and other science communicators with the appropriate expertise to evaluate health and life sciences manuscripts submitted for publication.”

    Aaaaand there’s the money quote, where all this is headed. We must “decolonize” science by appointing committees filled with people like this to decide whether or not scientific papers see the light of day, lest the observations in them fail to fit the proper narrative. And lots of sinecures for the author and her buddies, too!

    1. Thinking of those jokes from as little as five or six years ago: “What are all those 20somethings and 30somethings with Master’s and PhDs in gender studies and ethnic studies going to do? Have fun working at Starbucks!”

      As it turns out, people like McLemore have a very good idea what to do with such grads: install them in every other university department, in science labs, in businesses, and everywhere else, to deconstruct the white patriarchal structural racist norms that pervade everything everywhere. And to correct, and potentially eject, those who refuse to get along with the program. And since they’re advanced degree holders doing such important work, it’s only fair they be paid $150k or more for their labor.

      1. To be fair, she is a nurse first and foremost. A very worthy occupation. Her academic credentials are still in their infancy. Check her bio page linked from the post or from the magazine. Surprising she got the job to interpret E.O.Wilson legacy, but such are the rules of casting these days.

        1. You imply that the author was assigned the task of writing an obituary for E.O. Wilson. I doubt that. Instead, I suspect she had something to say and was allowed to say it by a sympathetic editor.

          1. Either this, or McLemore has taken on a Nikole Hannah-Jones-type role at Scientific American: she tells people higher up than her what she wants done, or she will run on Twitter (she mysteriously has a blue check mark despite being some no-name associate nursing professor of little merit) and call the institution and the people running it racist.

            But with woke white people, the difference between fear and sympathy regarding accusations of racism coming from a black person is practically immaterial.

            1. I suspect her blue check comes from her being a black woman active in “reproductive justice”. As her profile states, she’s retired from the mainstream nursing education biz. This is probably also what got her the writing assignment at SciAm. Its editor is eager to demonstrate the magazine’s anti-racism virtue. What better way to do that than to enlist someone science-adjacent with credibility in the anti-racism community? As for throwing dead scientists under the anti-racist bus, he’s white, male, and dabbles in genetics so need we say more? Besides, controversy is good for a dying publication.

  37. So I clicked on the Francis Collins quote she supplies as a link for justifying what exactly I’m not sure, “You know, maybe we underinvested in research on human behavior.” It is just him wishing they (NIH) had concentrated more on figuring out ways to get people to accept vaccination against COVID 19 as he laments that 60 million people still are not vaccinated. That’s it. She is misrepresenting him as far as I can tell.

    Also, the article seems to be poorly written on purpose to make it difficult to ascertain the meaning of her prose.

    There are seven (by my count) uses of the word “problematic”. In two separate instances there are two sentences following one after the other with each of them having the word “problematic” in them. This tells me there was either no editing or very poor editing.

    But at least the author of the screed remembered something from her high school English classes about how to deliver a message. She uses the word “racism” three times in the body of the essay, but she uses the word “racist” in both the opening sentence and the closing sentence. Coincidence?

    1. Well, that’s entirely unproblematic – the way things are supposed to be – because if anyone says a thing is problematic – ooo, problems are automatically being produced because of that thing.

      Ooo – yucky problems, everybody – look – ewwww. And what is making the problems?

      [ points with finger ]

      That thing! Get ’em!

  38. “There’s nothing I could find in that chapter suggesting that Wilson is a racist, or that he thinks that differences between races that have promoted racism are determined by genes.”
    – am I misunderstanding this; this seems to imply that had he made that statement, it would be racist? So what if any such differences ‘are’ (don’t know the italics command) determined by genes?! Stating so wouldn’t be racist, and it’s stating a fact! At least, my interpretation of your comment leads me to that conclusion.

    “But to repeat myself: thinking that differences between people or even groups could have a genetic component is not the same thing as racism”
    – indeed, but why is stating a ‘genetic component’ not racist, whilst stating ‘determined by genes’ is racist?
    ————
    As for the piece itself (McLemore’s!), what a cow pat of ideological nonsense. I can’t help but think she saw the opportunity solely to promote her ideology and herself on the coat tails of a big name that will bring her attention, good or ill. Self-promotion at the bottom of the barrel.

  39. Judging, sorry, interpreting from her (apologies if I mispronounced) Twitter handle, this person has a big insecurity problem. She lists too many acronyms and insists on her endowment (endowments ?) , here’s an interesting word.

    The verbiage of woke demonstration reminds me of marxist-leninist use of vocabulary, construction of sentences and style of sustainance of arguments. But as she says, those are interpretations. I wonder if assailing them so violently in the name of facts is not giving her ramblings more importance that they deserve.

    When it comes to the publishing media, of course, scorn is warranted; until it changes its title.

    1. There have always been some number of Marxist-leninists in our society since the 1920s. When they are in small numbers or lack political power, ignoring them or treating them as harmless eccentrics is an appropriate response.
      However, they subscribe to a belief system that, when they attain enough power, always ends in mass deaths and large-scale oppression. The majority of them don’t intend for it to turn out that way, but it always does. The major difference between our woke and the Khmer Rouge, Red Guards or any of the many other such organizations is their ability to project power onto the rest of us. As long as they are ascendant, they pose a substantial risk. I don’t think it is the same risk that the people of Russia, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Laos, or Cuba faced. They are not likely to take control. What they might do is cause enough internal disorder that we could, at a minimum, face a long effort to restore our educational standards and progress in race relations.

  40. Many years ago when I was in university (late 90s), I used to pick up the Skeptical Inquirer magazine to read in the library when I should have been studying. I remember reading an article, can’t remember who wrote it, or exactly what it was about, but it contained this epigram that has stuck with me ever since:

    Two farmers are in a field, and one asks, “Hey, is that tree straight?”, to which the other responds, “That tree is so straight, it leans the other way!”

    This always pops into my mind when these “woke” controversies in science pop-up. You have people so blindly fixated on righting past wrongs that they go past straight, into absurdity,and create another problem which is equally, if not more, wrong.

    Usually it’s worse though, because the “fix” tends to attack the foundations of the scientific method itself.

    Science just needs to be straight. That is all.

    Would be great if someone can track down the article containing that quote. I’ve googled it over the years, but never got any hits.

  41. Haven’t checked if the anti-science crazies over at Pharyngula have written an article congratulating Unscientific American, yet.

    Anyhow, weren’t we all told that we are imagining all this ‘woke’ nonsense that has infected science and academia? Some sort of far right bogeyman, or something. So this UnSci-Am story can’t surely be true… /s

  42. When I started reading the comments I was very concerned about the threats to the genuine practice of science in America. By the time I had reached the end, the author of this absurd sciam piece had been so thoroughly skewered that I ended up rolling on the floor laughing my ass off

  43. The ‘evidence’ for Wilson’s bigotry was clear. Did you not see the words ‘normal,’ ‘colony’ and ‘sex’?
    ‘Normal distribution’ means white people are used as a standard. Discussing ant ‘colonies’ means that Wilson is sympathetic to colonialism. And to top it all off, we have this devastating observation: “Ant culture is hierarchal and matriarchal, based on human understandings of gender.” Case closed!

  44. I had been planning to let my subscription to Scientific American lapse this summer, but just went ahead and canceled today with an email explaining why. Just as bad as the article was the Editor-in-Chief tweeting that this muddled piece was “insightful” and saying racism is “inherent” in genetics.

    Now I wonder which science magazine I should replace it with? New Scientist, American Scientist, Science News, something else? Maybe just subscribe to Science? Any recommendations would be appreciated.

    1. As far as I know, there really isn’t a modern equivalent to Scientific American back when it was a quality publication. I think science and engineering have grown and fragmented to the point where it would be hard for a single publication to cover it all at a similar level.

      I used to read Scientific American but abandoned it perhaps 25 years ago or so. “Wired” does a fairly good job but certainly doesn’t cover it all. “The Economist” has a Science and Technology section that is pretty good but it only hits the high points. Probably the best substitute for the old SciAm are the many online publications that serve individual fields with content targeted at non-specialists. There are also many, many podcasts and blogs. It’s really an embarrassment of riche but it does require more time to research and filter.

    1. (Somehow the webpage took my content before I was finished with it. Not sure what happened.)

      The paper ends with:

      “To address the shortcomings listed above, we propose several standards for publishing on racial health inequities, intended for researchers, journals, and peer reviewers.”

      Basically, it discourages publishing anything on racial health inequities that doesn’t blame them on racism. Here are some choice phrases:

      “Reject articles on racial health inequities that fail to rigorously examine racism.”

      “Be critical of work that reifies biological race or provides a genetic basis for racial differences in health outcomes.”

      “Never offer genetic interpretations of race because such suppositions are not grounded in science.”

      “And naming racism explicitly helps authors avoid incorrectly assigning race as a risk factor, when racism is the risk factor for racially disparate outcomes.”

  45. McLemore refers to “anthropologist Francis Galton” rather than labeling him as a statistician or, more to the point, as the man who named and promoted eugenics. The reference to Mendel also makes it seem as though she is merely grabbing at famous names without understanding the work they did. She undermines her own credibility. And I say this as one who does think that scientists (and everyone else) do need to examine their prejudices, preferably in long and deep conversation with people from outside their field.

    1. ” … grabbing at famous names …”

      Precisely – this is a feature I notice in New Puritan / Electism – use “success”, fame, buildings, statues, etc. to identify individuals (usually not alive) for inquisitions.

    1. I think they are trying to make the case that white male physicists stand as gatekeepers for their profession, effectively preventing the observations made by black female physicists from being listened to. Deontologizing refers to the gatekeeping function.

      I suppose it happens. Everyone is aware that certain people have trouble getting people to listen to them. It wouldn’t surprise me that implicit racism is involved. This effect is part of the reason why racism is so hard to erase. Where we may differ with the Woke is how big an effect this and, even more, with their proposed solutions. The obvious place to start is to attempt to quantify the effect but they would just point to the lack of equity. Of course, that includes all kinds of influences and gives no workable solution.

  46. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the actual fissures in societies like the United States relate to socioeconomic status (SES), not race. Sure, racial groups have different distributions of SES, but not enough to act as proxies. For instance, “black” does not always equal “poor”, nor does “white” always mean “rich”. Most non-white people in fact are not poor, and most white people are not rich.

    This obsession with race by the elite seems to have the effect of pitting lower and middling SES non-whites against whites, when in fact these groups should be aligned with each other.

    The rich elite sort of stand above the fray, assuming a position of moral righteousness with all of their racial newspeak, DEI initiatives, and other largely performative measures, all the while continuing to soak up more and more of the nation’s wealth and influence.

    I’m not usually a believer of conspiracies, but this race obsession, by distracting everyone from the real problems of SES, so neatly benefits the interests of the elites.

    While I’m not picturing smoke-filled rooms of conspirators, I do think that the many of the rich and powerful have consciously and opportunistically noticed the utility of Wokism to preserving their interests while managing to appear morally superior at the same time.

  47. The obvious reason for such fatuous idiocy as Monica McLamore’s view of E.O. Wilson’s thought is that deep down she suspects that he is probably correct.

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