The ignorant and misguided demonization of a behavior geneticist

August 17, 2022 • 11:30 am

I don’t usually look at Twitter unless a reader sends me a tweet, and I never engage in Twitter battles. But I’ve heard enough about these squabbles—particularly when connected with someone’s “cancellation”—that I know that they’re rancorous, full of ignorance and hatred, and the participants are often anonymous, which is cowardly.

Today we’re going to look at one attempt at cancellation that particularly galled me, for the charges against the accused—genetic researcher and paleoartist Emily Willoughby—are not only unfair, but bespeak the profound ignorance of her critics.

This piling on is what happens when someone studies the genetics of IQ, but doesn’t even mention race.  It’s enough that one studies the genetics of this trait to bring out a pack of howling morons denying that there is IQ, that it has a genetic component, and then you claim that the student is a horrible person who must be a eugenicist or Nazi.

That kind of tirade, of course, derives from the empirical demonstration that ethnic groups differ in IQ, which has become taboo to mention. You don’t even have to mention race: all you have to say is the undeniable scientific fact that IQ (whatever it may be) is highly heritable within a group—that is, about 60% of the variation in IQ among, say, Europeans, is due to variation in their genes—and the Blank Slate Police come knocking. The implication is that if you deny this simple empirical fact, you must also think that variation among groups has a big genetic component (this is a faulty conclusion), and therefore must be a eugenicist hoping to sterilize or kill members of groups with lower IQs.

I wouldn’t have believed this kind of stupid extrapolation had I not seen it for myself.

As I said, Willoughby is a geneticist: a postdoctoral researcher in personality, individual differences, and behavior genetics at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. She is also a paleoartist, known for depicting extinct creatures. I gave a positive review in 2018 to one of the books she illustrated, a pro-evolution book called God’s Word or Human Reason?: An Inside Perspective on Creationism.

Here’s Emily’s bio from her research webpage (there’s another on her art webpage).


Emily is also engaged in the new genome-wide association mapping (GWAS) of various human traits, a technique I described in my review of a book by Kathryn Harden on the method. It’s a new way to find small regions of the genome that contribute to variation among people in behavioral and physical traits. One of the most well-known papers describing its results is the paper below published in Nature Genetics. As you see, Emily is an author (click to read).

Using a huge sample (1.1 million people), and one “race” (Americans of European ancestry), the authors found fully 1271 variable regions of the genome (“single-nucleotide polymorphisms”, or SNPs) associated with differences in educational attainment (how far you go in school) and cognitive performance (how you perform on tests). These SNPs accounted for about 10-13% of variation among “Europeans” (i.e., U.S. whites). Because the “heritability” of the trait measured by standard methods (parent-offspring correlation, twin studies, and adoption studies) is substantially higher than this (around 0.6), the GWAS results imply that there are a ton of variable regions in our genome that affect academic and cognitive performance within an ethnic group, but have effects to small to measure. Other studies give similar results.

Now this isn’t IQ per se, but these traits are highly correlated with IQ. Whatever IQ measures, there’s no doubt that it’s strongly correlated with various measures of “conventional” success in life, including academic achievement, financial success, income, socioeconomic status, educational attainment (one of the traits measured in the paper below) and occupational level attained. There is no controversy about this, or about whether IQ itself has substantial heritability within a population.

Now, what does someone bent on stirring up trouble and besmirching a genetic researcher’s reputation do with the fact that Emily works on stuff like the above? Here’s what—they issue a defamatory tweet, full of misrepresentations.

Where does one start hacking through this thicket of nonsense? First, how can a measurement be a “pseudoscientific myth”? It is an estimate, and one that is not only highly heritable, but highly correlated with conventional measures of success in life. (Note: I am not saying that people with higher IQ’s are “better”: many of them are jerks, and there are lots of valuable human qualities, like empathy, not measured by IQ. All I’m saying is that IQ measures something that correlates with academic, occupational, and financial achievement.)

“Prehistorica”‘s deliberately misleading slurs go on.  Emily’s research, as you can see by reading her c.v., is NOT “directly tied to eugenics, racism, and classism.” Yes, in the past bigoted researchers have made those ties, but to imply that Emily is doing that is simply a lie. She works on genetic analysis and heritability of behavioral traits within populations.

And saying that Emily is “indifferent to the myth that intelligence is a racial component” is a way of implying that she knows this is true, but doesn’t pay attention to it. In fact, we don’t know whether it’s a myth, because we have very few data. But at any rate, Emily does not deal with the issue of racial differences in cognitive abilities. This is just a smear.

Below is some approbation for one of her papers, which measures the heritability of IQ using correlations between parent and offspring in both adoptive and biological families. (This is one of the better ways to measure heritability, since family environment is presumably similar among the groups but genetic relatedness differ drastically.)

In the graphs below, notice the difference in the heritability using IQs of parents correlated with biological offspring (0.42, or 42%), versus that between parents with their adoptive offspring. (Parents and biological offspring were almost all whites of European ancestry, while adoptive children were 21% white but with 66% Asian and 13% adoptees of other groups. Heritabilities are the slopes of these regression lines.) In contrast to biological parents and their offspring, the heritability of IQ using parents and adopted offspring was much lower: either 10% or 6%, depending on how it was measured. This shows a small “common environment” effect, but a much larger effect of genes—a finding in line with that of previous studies.

These are respectable studies in peer-reviewed journals, conducted using standard protocols, and giving results that are in line with previous work or, in the case of GWAS studies, with contemporanous work.

But that doesn’t matter. Watch the yahoos go to town on Twitter! We start again with Prehistorica, as all the another tweets are responses to his tweets.

The tweet above is hilarious. The correlation (as instantiated through the regression line) is evident to anybody who has studied statistics, yet “magpie” can’t believe that this is a correlation. Magpie is an idiot.

All these people are shocked by the misguided tweet of Prehistorica, though they clearly know nothing about Willoughby’s research. This is how someone’s reputation is taken down by ignoramuses. Note the people who completely write Willoughby off because of what Prehistorica says, yet what he says is ignorant gibberish. Still, all the Twitterites, ignorant of modern behavioral genetics, fall in line like lemmings. (Willoughby does have a few defenders.)

“Vile, spiteful person.”  How did they divine that from Willoughby’s work?

The one below is even funnier in its stupidity than the one about correlations.  My response is “YES, THIS IS HOW PHENOTYPES WORK.” A phenotype is any measurable trait of an organism, and it can be morphological, physiological, and yes, behavioral. For any measurable trait (“phenotype”) you can calculate a heritability, assuming you do the work right and control for common environment, nongenetic inheritance (wealth) and the like.  So, “Lost Ovis”, take a course in biology for crying out loud!. The fact is that every “behavior” in “Lost Ovis”‘s table is a phenotype that one can use to figure out how much variation among individuals in the behavior is due to variation in their genes.

Here’s a graph from one of Emma’s papers showing estimates of heritability in many “phenotypes”, including behavioral ones.  The scientific estimates are on the Y axis, but do correlate pretty well with laypeople’s off-the-cuff estimates. Note that “intelligence” is estimated by both groups to have a heritability (or, for laypeople, “estimate of genetic influence”) of about 0.6.

Now one attacker above mentions a picture commissioned by Willoughby and her boyfriend in 2009. Here’s the “Nazi” picture that was commissioned, used above to further denigrate Emily. I wrote her and asked her what that was about, and she replied (with permission to quote):

The explanation for the drawing of dinosaurs in Nazi uniforms is just that my boyfriend and I were feathered dinosaur artists and chess fans, and thought it was funny to be offensive 13 years ago. We would never think of asking someone to draw something like that nowadays, nor expressing humor about it in public.

Emily has grown up since she drew it, and, truth be told, I don’t find it so offensive myself. Raptors dressed as Nazis is a trope of comparison, and it doesn’t make fun of any group except raptors. But Emily thought it was necessary to explain it.  I, for one, am satisfied with her explanation and regret, but the trolls will never be.

Emily, distressed that she was being taken apart on Twitter for no good reason save ignorance, decided to write a series of tweets in response. I’ve put the ten of them below.

Although it’s clear from Emily’s final tweet that she certainly does not condone eugenics, she decided to email me further to give a clearer statement about her beliefs. Here it is, unsolicited by me.

I unequivocally denounce eugenics and those who advocate for it. I cannot control those who follow me and argue in favor of ideologies I abhor. I did not invite them. The checkered history of my field is part of why I care about improving it by doing good research and methodology commensurate with our modern notions of human rights. But if people start believing behavioral genetics is a racist field of research, only racists will conduct it. Please don’t let that happen.

Good enough for you trolls? Can you see Emily as a good researcher and a human being again?

I didn’t think so.

This has been an object lesson to me on Twitter, and has further confirmed my unwillingness to read comments on my own Twitter posts (they go directly to the site from my WordPress account) as well as my refusal to engage in Twitter fights.

Yes, Twitter can be useful in scientific communication by publicizing new papers or results quickly. But it can also be used by scientific know-nothings to smear researchers. And that was what was done to Dr. Willoughby here. Both Prehistorica and his/her vicious acolytes should be ashamed of themselves. They won’t be, of course, because, being Woke, they think they’re doing God’s work. Ignore them.

46 thoughts on “The ignorant and misguided demonization of a behavior geneticist

  1. I usually am a firm believer of ‘just ignore’ when it comes to online pile ups like this. Apologizing is the worst thing you can do in this instance, but luckily she didn’t do that as far as I can see. I still don’t think she owes anyone an explanation, though it is kind of sweet she emailed you.

    1. I agree with you. It can’t simply be ignored. It was ignored for years and it has festered away in various parts of academia until it eventually burst out into the public sphere. Gender ideology for example now has a grip on many of our public institutions and even with the sciences themselves. Ignoring it is the last thing we should be doing. It’s pseudoscience and we need to confront it head on with good science and public debate.

  2. Emily Willoughby expressed herself professionally and discounted the nonsense well. Twitter is a cesspool as it has always been and is not worth using.

    1. Plainly people would lead happier and more productive lives if they avoided social media entirely. My only involvement is in comment sections like this one, and I don’t really think that qualifies as a social medium.
      As for people who think IQ doesn’t exist(!), I suspect that happens because they themselves have so little of it that they can’t recognise it when they see it.

  3. It is possible that this obviously bright young woman’s academic affiliation is hurting her reputation amongst the wokesters, as Minnesota was home to two frequently-criticized behavioral geneticists, David Lykken and Thomas Bouchard.

  4. I may have mentioned this before: Here is my ironclad proof that there are heritable differences in intelligence (given any common sense definition thereof). Humans are smarter than chimps and that must have been a result of evolution since our last common ancestor. Evolution only works if there is heritable variation in the trait(s) under selection. It would be very surprising if there were heritable differences in intelligence in the past but none today. (Yes, chimps are “smart” in ways that matter to them, but they don’t write books or design bridges or airplanes or computers like the one you are reading this on.)

    1. Precisely, there is also an evolutionarily determined a range for adult height, with some statistical clusters for various ethnic groups and sexes. My understanding is that pre-natal and post-natal circumstances (nutrition) have some effect on height. It’s also important that we do not forget the existence of statistical outliers – and debilitating accidents (‘debilis’ is Latin for ‘weak’ and is now a censored insult in some languages.)

      Still, we can always compare the heights of humans and chimps in centimeters. I’d be curious to see non-human intelligence mapped onto an IQ scale. IQ is not a perfect metric, but it is useful. Unfortunately, it is also subject to abuse.

    2. Oh, didn’t you get the memo? At some point in the evolution of humans, a miracle happened, and all of the traits that had been passed along genetically (like behavioral differences between males and females, instincts for forming hierarchical social structures, instincts for cooperation, heritable personality traits etc.) vanished without a trace and were replaced by infinitely malleable social constructs that just happened to look exactly like elaborate versions of what our primate relatives have.
      No one likes to talk about that event, but it is the only way that many social science theories make sense, and we don’t want to risk doubting those, do we?

  5. The woke regard any suggestion that genes influence human behaviour traits as anathema. This sort of reaction is sadly normal.

    I once got ridiculed by PZ and then banned from Pharyngula for making the (rather obvious, I thought) suggestion that humans with an XY genotype had a genetic predisposition to aggression compared to humans with an XX genotype.

    (Yep, really, even that was too much for them.)

    1. Hah! I remember that thread! That was way back when the whole Atheism+ thing was erupting, right? I was suffering from a ton of cognitive dissonance back then – I had thought that, yeah, feminism was a good thing to support, and now, here were all these feminists picking fights with people I considered my heroes.
      There were a couple of “discussions” I read that settled which side to choose. Rebecca Watson arguing that no one should use the word “stupid” because it’s ableist was one; some poor guy (who turns out to be you) getting piled on and banned for something that is an obvious everyday observation backed by solid science was another.

    2. On Twitter I had the temerity to share my opinion that human races exist with Professor Dan Graur and was promptly denounced as a racist by Graur and a number of others. Graur is clearly very intelligent and accomplished but is closed minded on certain topics. Maybe he’s correct about races but simply thinking they exist doesn’t make one a racist.

  6. Thanks for posting this defense of Emily, but I would like to correct you about one thing: I think this type of behavior isn’t confined to Twitter, nor is it safe to ignore it. Remember what happened to Steve Hsu two years ago, which ultimately cost him his academic position:

    Emily has already lost one opportunity as a result of what’s happening to her. Her artwork had previously been featured in books by the paleontologist Darren Naish, who also positively reviewed her and my book God’s Word or Human Reason?, but Naish announced this morning that he will no longer have anything to do with her.

    1. Here’s what Naish tweeted:

      Darren Naish
      Over recent days, palaeoartist Emily Willoughby has been accused of being associated with race science and its attendant political positions. For that reason I cannot, from hereon, have any association with Emily or her work. I will not be engaging in discussion on this matter.

      This is absolutely unbelievable. Is being accused of something by a bunch of ignorant people the same thing as being GUILTY? For that is what Naish is assuming. Has he looked at her papers? Has he found her working on race science and taking conservative positions? Nope; he’s just canceling her because of an accusation. His behavior is reprehensible, shameful. Nothing in that accusation is accurate.

      1. > he’s just canceling her because of an accusation. His behavior is reprehensible, shameful.

        I have an alternate reading of his comment; he may like her, but is afraid of the blowback, of eventually being cancelled himself. He hasn’t said anything negative about her, but he acknowledged that the accusation exists. This is how the new PC crowd wins, by scaring people with McCarthyist witch hunts. The tweet is carefully worded to allow for both interpretations. “I will not be engaging in discussion on this matter” lets him pre-emptively shut down any speculation.

        1. Even given your “charitable” alternative interpretation, his behavior is cowardly, reprehensible, and shameful. It would be even worse, in fact, if he intended to say, “I won’t associate with her because some of the opprobrium might rub off on me.” That is double cowardice! Triple, if you add about his refusal to consider discussion (or alternative views).

          1. I agree fully with Professor Coyne. Let’s hope that Naish has the courage to reorient himself on this issue. I’m sure that an apology would be accepted and would reflect well on him. He would soon be forgiven and everyone could move on.

            Should we not expect better from our top researchers? Supposedly, they are among the most intellectually gifted of the population and certainly among the most educated. For those reasons alone we might expect them to show integrity and moral courage.

            However, the seven professors vs. traditional knowledge issue here in New Zealand has shown that even clever academics display, not only bad judgement, but sometimes complete lack of spine in pandering to stupidity and in their willingness to vilify other professionals.
            David Lillis

            1. Re “Supposedly, they are among the most intellectually gifted of the population and certainly among the most educated. For those reasons alone we might expect them to show integrity and moral courage.”

              My first thought upon reading this paragraph was rather to pose the question that it assumes: Is there a significant positive correlation between being intellectually gifted and among the most educated on the one hand and integrity and moral courage on the other? Is there any solid research on the question? Difficult to assess, perhaps, since the first two are highly measurable, while the second two are more subjective and/or slippery.

              1. Hi Jared.
                I’m not sure if substantive research has been done on associations between levels of education and IQ – and constructs that we might call “integrity” and “honesty” etc. I guess that there is a positive association, but I know highly intelligent and highly educated people who are routinely horrible to others. One of the nastiest people I have ever met holds a Ph.D in a branch of physics, and I have vivid memories of his rudeness, foul temper and subterranean behavior when I was a postgraduate student. Go figure! But I suspect a degree of asperger’s there.

                Observing him in action more than thirty years ago made me realize what could happen to an unfortunate student if the thesis supervisor is a pig. So I made recommendations in relation to thesis supervision to a particular New Zealand University:

                1. Provide two supervisors rather than one.
                2. Develop a proposal to guide the student’s work and to ensure that the student has access to the necessary resources, rather than telling the student to get lost and do it all in isolation.

                It was pleasing to see that my recommendations became embedded within the University’s supervision policies and possibly a few disasters have been averted since submitting my recommendations. Sometimes being a pain in the neck can have a positive impact!

                Certainly, educated people are less heavily engaged in crime and offending than the less educated, and the same is true across the IQ-levels. Maybe those findings suggest higher integrity or honesty (assuming we can agree on how to define and measure these constructs), or perhaps the more educated are simply better at hiding their peccadillos and mendacities. I prefer to believe that education enhances the person. Or maybe educated people earning good money see little need to pilfer cigarettes and booze from the local supermarket. Who knows?

                In any case, the treatment of Dr. Willoughby and other researchers by other researchers is very disappointing. Is it really naive to have expected better from them?

                David Lillis

              2. Exactly, the fact that we could all run through any number of counter examples — both of intelligent people being morally bankrupt and unintelligent and/or uneducated people being moral pillars — is of course one reason why I wondered if there was any reliable statistical analysis of the issue.

                Re “I guess that there is a positive association, but …”: Indeed, I think we all tend to do exactly this, to guess or assume. Whether it bears quantitative analysis is another question. It reminds me of the well known studies that show that we also tend to ascribe a whole host of positive attributes to beautiful or handsome people, but mistakenly. Do we perhaps do the same with bright people?

                “Is it really naive to have expected better from them?” That is precisely the question. Perhaps it is. I really don’t know.

            2. There is (to my knowledge) no association between intelligence or educational level with the emotions that guide morality, or with taking the “moral” position in ultimatum games, but there is an association with IQ and “moral” behavior in the sense that highly intelligent people have better sounding rationalizations/better know how to present as ethical to others like them, and they usually have the foresight and impulse control that keeps them from committing the kind of obvious rule violations that would get them in jail. To put it bluntly, low IQ psychopaths become kill people, high IQ psychopaths become politicians, CEOs, spies/special forces or something in finance.

              High IQ people are much better than stupid people in performative moralizing and knowing what the current Zeitgeist regards as the moral position to take, and the majority will take that position without much ado or reflection when it is opportune for personal gain in status or money and to avoid personal harm, even at the cost of others. And this is what we are seeing here.

              The first thing I thought when I read Kohlbergs “levels of morality” was that my paternal grandmother and her sisters, the best, selfless people in the world, would have scored very low on that scale, being working class and with the very rudimentary few years of schooling working class women had in those days. Kohlberg’s levels of morality were really intellectual levels of talking about morality.

              1. Hi Ruth.
                Curious comment on nasties who become CEOs. That is exactly my experience in New Zealand’s public sector where I worked as a researcher and statistician for 20 years. We have a smorgasbord of highly-paid senior executives and highly-paid CEOs who treat other humans like trash. Just how and why did they get to those positions when everyone can see who and what they are? Numerous non-disclosure agreements involving monetary pay-outs in order to shut down any public display of discontent when people are bullied out of their jobs. Why not treat other humans decently in the first place?

                That’s why bullying is so common in New Zealand’s public sector – especially in education. I have written extensively about bullying in New Zealand and you can find articles of mine very easily by searching for my name and “bullying”.

                David Lillis

              2. There is research showing people with a higher IQ score are less likely to be racist and homophobic, and more intelligent people are also more likely to become vegetarian. So there absolutely is a link between intelligence and moral behavior.

              3. Bernardo.
                Agreed! The question for us is what mediates the connection between IQ and educational-level and a person’s behaviors and attitudes. Indeed, some highly-educated people are unpleasant but, in general, my experience is that the most intelligent and educated are pretty decent.

                Could the mediating variables be connected with nothing more than a clearer understanding of how one is expected to behave or is it that the intelligent and educated ones have in reality thought more about the world and their place within it, and have thought more about the needs and rights of others – and thus behave towards the world with greater kindness. It could be a bit of both (and possibly other factors too), though It’s comforting to believe that it’s mostly the latter.

                I count four extremely gifted academics among my close friends. For example, one friend was the top graduate across all disciplines at his New Zealand University; a brilliant first-class honours degree in pure mathematics, a Master’s degree with high distinction in pure mathematics, numerous scholarships, including the offer of a Prince of Wales Commonwealth Scholarship to Cambridge University. The other three are like him too (Ph.Ds in pure mathematics, topping New Zealand in high-school examinations, Ph.Ds from Cambridge and doctorates from Oxford etc etc. However, the reason for my close friendships with them is their great kindness and integrity – not because of their intellects. Always thinking of others first and never the remotest hint of ego about their achievements.

                On the other hand I know people of modest or low academic achievement who live for money and status and their boasting never ceases. But, as we have said earlier, some top academics and executives are not so pleasant either.

                Abraham Maslow once wrote: “My main point is that [IQ tests] leave out the unconscious, the depths, the inner principle. They leave out the impulse-life, the emotions, the intuitions, the wisdom of the unconscious, the poetic and esthetic, the values… the wisdom of the heart…”

                Worth considering!

                David Lillis

      2. Is it that anyone who does stand by someone like her becomes a target in turn? Not everyone is willing to do that. He has said he is not getting involved which suggests he wants to avoid the issue. Caesar’s wife…? I don’t know.

        It is the science that should do the talking. As it is we have eugenics of a sort anyway, though most people do not consider it so. I think selecting a foetus that does not have a genetic disease surely is eugenics? I do not think that is bad. I would say if we could create people with superior abilities, then we probably will. But this attack is like the villagers in a Hammer horror film, lighting their torches. They cannot think for themselves, they just think what their self-appointed leader tells them to.

        I have tried being provocative on twitter sometimes, but presumably am not important so get ignored! 😉

    2. Not only has Naish ostracised her for merely being “accused” of something, but the accusation is only the vague suggestion that she is “associated with” race science and certain political positions, not that she actually holds those positions.

      And there’s also the vagueness of “race science”. Since race (shared-ancestry clusterings) is a real feature of humans distributed across the world, it is an entirely proper thing for science to study, so long as it is done well on the actual evidence.

  7. Emily Willoughby and a colleague posted one or two articles in Panda’s Thumb, including sort of a primer, General intelligence: What we know and how we know it, and I am sorry that she is now taking grief for her research. I do not know Darren Naish, but I note that Dr. Willoughby cited a favorable review of her book by Dr. Naish in her PT article. I was disappointed that Dr. Naish decided to cancel Dr. Willoughby because she was accused of something, not because he thought it was true.

  8. I have conducted my own statistical analysis and research into human cognitive abilities (mostly in the context of national high school examinations) and I am sure that Dr. Willoughby conducts excellent and worthwhile research. The recent attacks on her are very disturbing. Of course, there are small heritable differences in the human mind across groups, just as there are small heritable differences in phenotype. Even if those differences did not exist, her research is well-intended and honorable.

    We must support Dr Willoughby and others like her. Many thanks to Professor Coyne for this blog and the opportunity that I and others have to articulate our support for Dr. Willoughby and call out woke nonsense.

    David Lillis M.Sc Ph.D

  9. My suspicion is that they would not oppose research into this whole area of genetics if they did not already have a pretty good idea of what the conclusions will be.
    It is as if religious people were getting together and stopping people from doing research that they know will eventually cast doubt on their young earth theory.
    The first issue with that is that they clearly have pretty solid doubts about the validity of their own doctrine.
    Rational people, when confronted with evidence that some of their beliefs are false, will modify their beliefs instead of trying to destroy the scientists.

    The argument about such knowledge inevitably leading to it being used in the worst possible way is also poor reasoning. You could construct such an argument about almost any body of knowledge or innovation. But if there is a worst use, there is probably also a best use. The subject here seems to be basic research into the nature of humanity. I don’t think anyone is in a position to predict how the data will be used.

    Besides, this is just observational. Preventing its study is not going to change the reality of the underlying data.

  10. As I was reading this piece on Willoughby and her “detractors” I found myself repeatedly asking, “but why has she been singled out for such attacks, when she is actually just one among hundreds of researchers presenting what has become the consensus over the last 30+ years?” I also wondered why they would attack a fairly unknown, low-level individual? Why not go after Plomin or any of dozens of other more prominent researchers and writers?

    Then I saw the raptors in Nazi uniform illustration, and I suppose — without having thoroughly researched the progression of the matter — that this has played a significant role. And one must admit, it’s a bad look. If you’re on the other side of the “argument,” seeing that she has presented herself as a raptor in Nazi uniform gives you some rather striking ammo.

    And I wonder how forgiving — even defending — we would be toward someone of the opposite ideological spectrum who had done the same thing? How readily would we accept the same “silly prank from my youth” defence from, I don’t know, let’s say, Ken Ham? Or Ibram Kendi? Or William Lane Craig?

    This willingness to overlook such an egregious misstep even seems to influence how it has been presented to us: PCC writes, “Here’s the “Nazi” picture that was commissioned, used above to further denigrate Emily.” The “Nazi” has been put in quotes, though there isn’t really any reason to do so, as the picture is straight-up, explicit Nazi. And the “… used to further denigrate Emily,” well, I don’t know, how else should one address the illustration in relation to Willoughby? It was a very serious mistake with potentially long-lasting effects. (In 2009, when the illustration was done, she would have been, if I am not mistaken, 23 years old, i.e. still young, but no longer a child, no longer a teenager.)

    I guess I, for one, can understand to some degree how this drastic own goal has opened her up to attacks, or at least suspicion, even if they are otherwise not based on evidence and sound research.

    1. Emily Willoughby has nothing to apologise for. She is correct.
      I would never employ someone who didnt have empathy or emotional intelligence. To me it was as much importance as the job.
      Such ignorant people is how we came about Brexit!

    2. She drew a cartoon. A raptor cannot play chess nor can it be a nazi. It is absurd- but not as absurd as the idea that a person’s reputation can be destroyed **forever** by drawing a cartoon. It is nothing more than a blasphemy accusation. Since that cartoon appears to be a one-off and I don’t know Willoughby’s mind, I will default to a charitable interpretation of the cartoon.

      Regarding a similar cartoon from Ken Ham or other miscreants, the cartoon wouldn’t be the core motivation of their detractors as it seems to be with Willoughby. She is being targeted precisely because she is “a fairly unknown, low-level individual” and thus an easy target for the righteous.

    3. Emily was singled out because she isn’t that much of a nobody actually.

      If you notice many of her detractors seem to share an interest in dinosaurs and other ancient lifeforms (whether they show their interest via emoji, their username, the profile picture etc…).

      Willoughby gained quite a bit of notoriety due to her paleoart, and hers was frequently named as an example of high quality work all over the online paleo-community, both by paleontologists and simple enthusiasts.

      What seems to have happened here is that politically obssesed people within the paleo community have rallied other like minded inviduals against what they perceived as an impure member of their field.

      The thing has spread beyond Twitter (for example on Discord, where similiar opinions have found fertile soil to grow) and always in enviroments related in some way to paleontology.

      Simply, the reason Emily was targeted is that she isn’t involved only in the field of her fellow researchers, but she is also deeply involved in another one that attracts more interest at a popular level.

      Having said that, sometimes I wish dinosaurs were as popular as shrimps, thing like this might not happen then.

      1. What’s been happening with respect to Emily on Discord? I’ve been trying to follow the progression of all this, but I’m apparently not in any of the relevant Discord servers.

        1. The question regarding the Discord servers is more peripheral in this situation, I mentioned mostly of an example of this matter spiraling outside of Twitter.

          Anyway, long story short it’s just more of the same of what’s happening on Twitter with even fewer people defending Emily.

  11. Now her detractors are trying to get her Wikipedia article deleted:

    Hard to say if she’s notable enough or not, as Wikilaw is hard for me to parse, but the timing makes it clear what happened here: Her detractors found her Wiki page and tried to find “reliable sources” demonizing her about this recent controversy. Finding none, they did the next best thing.

  12. Prehistorica/Christian M seems like an exceptionally nasty piece of work. Following the link on their twitter bio led me to this:
    where they are describe themselves as a “paleoartist”. Maybe there’ some professional jeaulosy involved in trying to trash the reputation of a rival. Anyway, twitter can be a nasty place, and I hope Emily Willoughby. is OK

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