A once respected biology journal indicts evolutionary biology for ableism

December 29, 2022 • 11:00 am

It’s one thing when magazines like Scientific American go all catawampus on science, but another entirely when a good scientific journal itself succumbs to wokeness. Sadly, this is happening, and nowhere more pervasively than in biology, especially evolutionary biology, where one is able to indict famous biologists of the past (including Mendel!), for both eugenics and racism. Now, however, we’re also being indicted for ableism.

The article below, from July’s American Naturalist (one of the major journals in ecology and evolutionary biology) shows two things. First, it’s one of the more ludicrous examples of science policing I’ve seen. Second, it shows how the American Society of Naturalists, which publishes the journal, has gone down the same woke road as the other ecology and evolution societies.

Let me say first that nobody I know in my field denigrates or wants to ignore the disabled, and nearly all of us (I have met no dissenters) favor accommodations to give them the same opportunities as others (ramps, special doors, Braille books, and so on). But the point of this article (click for a free read, pdf here, reference at bottom) is simply to buttress two false assertions: evolutionary biology rests, at bottom, on ableism and eugenics, and, more important, that the use of certain terms of art in the field, like “fitness”, is both ableist and discourages people from going into evolutionary biology. While you can argue about the prevalence of eugenics in the early history of evolutionary biology (it’s no longer part of the field), the claim that the language we use today is ableist and bigoted against disabled people is ludicrous.  This article is a specimen of virtue signaling of the first water.

The abstract tells it all:

Evolutionary biology and many of its foundational concepts are grounded in a history of ableism and eugenics. The field has not made a concerted effort to divest our concepts and investigative tools from this fraught history, and as a result, an ableist investigative lens has persisted in present-day evolutionary research, limiting the scope of research and harming the ability to communicate and synthesize knowledge about evolutionary processes. This failure to divest from our eugenicist and ableist history has harmed progress in evolutionary biology and allowed principles from evolutionary biology to continue to be weaponized against marginalized communities in the modern day. To rectify this problem, scholars in evolutionary research must come to terms with how the history of the field has influenced their investigations and work to establish a new framework for defining and investigating concepts such as selection and fitness.

The piece’s hectoring tone, which tells us what we MUST do, pervades the entire paper, especially the final section, “A path forward.” Oh, and here’s part of the acknowledgments—the obligatory self castigation:

We recognize that our experiences do not encompass all lived experiences within the field of evolutionary biology. We represent a diverse range of abilities, genders, and sexualities. However, we also represent white settlersperspectives on these issues.

(I have yet to understand what unlived experience is! And what do white settlers have to do with ableism?)

The piece is chock full of questionable assertions about evolutionary biology (you’ll enjoy the sweating authors’ attempt to show that albino animals are not at a disadvantage). Of course early evolutionists and geneticists were fond of eugenics, but this indictment has been made many times before, and the paper adds nothing new. It’s no more cogent than indicting early evolutionists for sexism or classism.  I’ll give just one statement about the past and pass on to what’s new: the claim that our field is rife with ableism and bigotry, and that hurts the careers of disabled people.

The roots of evolutionary biology are steeped in histories of white supremacism, eugenics, and scientific racism (Snyder and Mitchell 2006; McWhorter 2009; Withers 2012). In this article we will address eugenics and ableism, but we by no  means wish to minimize the substantial role of evolutionary biology in racism and white supremacy.

Substantial role? Darwin’s book was published in 1859, but slavery had been a going concern for a long time before that.  But I won’t argue further here. On to the ableism:

. . . many evolutionary biologists are likely well-intentioned people who would fight against many forms of disablism: forced institutionalization, forced sterilization, nonconsensual segregated education, and offensive language. However, these same people may inadvertently be reproducing ableist hierarchies on which these harms are built: the idea that there are superior and inferior forms of human variation; the idea that the value or desirability of a human life is conditional on particular physical, sensorial, or mental capacities; the connection of human worth to capitalistic productivity; the myth of human independence; European aesthetics held as the standard of beauty; or even the goal of longevity.

Note the patronizing “likely well-intentioned people,” as if there were a distinct possibility that all evolutionary biologists may not be well intentioned.  So how do we evolutionists buttress ableism, much less capitalism and European aesthetics?

Mainly through language.  According to the authors, the field is rife with words like “mutant/wild type”, “fitness optimum”, “mutations” (we should say “base pair change”), and “optimization”.  They further maintain that although there are four “evolutionary forces”—natural selection, genetic drift, gene flow, and mutation—the higher concentration of work on natural selection as opposed to these other areas reflects ableism, “exemplary of the legacy left by the field’s eugenicist founders”, as if all the founders of evolutionary biology were eugenicists. No, it’s simply that natural selection is more interesting, especially because it encompasses things like kin selection, sexual selection, and explains all the adaptations in the world.

Further, according to the authors, the concentration on selective mechanisms themselves, as opposed to alternative explanations, is supposed to reflect ableism. But this isn’t true: the fact that clines (geographic gradients in gene frequency) were recognized as possible products of gene flow of neutral alleles as well as of natural selection did not arise from a growing moral awareness of ableism. That’s an arrant distortion. It arose from what science does: constructs alternative hypotheses—in this case, hypotheses that were possible only after the neutral theory of genetic variation arose in the Sixties.

Further, the authors advance the misguided idea that once we’re aware of our ingrained ableism, our scientific agenda will change:

A clear example of the potential pitfalls of disproportionately invoking and researching natural selection as an explanatory mechanism is evolutionary clines. Evolutionary clines, defined as a frequency change of measurable characters over a geographic area (Huxley 1938), have historically been thought to generally result from adaptive evolution via selection (Santangelo et al. 2018), and stable clines are often thought to have a selective origin (Haldane 1948). However, recent research demonstrates that it is possible for gradients in genetic drift to cause these same spatial clines in nonadditive traits without the influence of selection (Santangelo et al. 2018). This provides evidence that breaking away from the traditional rhetoric and mindset increases our understanding of biological patterns and processes, which is encouraging that going forward, biologists may consider other drivers of these clines (Santangelo et al. 2018).

In fact, alternative explanations for “selective” patterns have been going on well before 2018. I highly doubt that Santagelo was motivated to explain these patterns via drift because he recognized the ableism inherent in a selectionist view.

I could go on for pages taking this paper apart, but I’ll bring up just one more term that’s seen as ableist:  the population-genetic word “fitness”.  The authors’ discussion is muddled because they use “fitness” as equivalent to “able-bodied”, implying that “lower fitness” is somehow a slur on the disabled. They also get things wrong by implying that “inclusive fitness” (the reproductive ability of a gene taking account its effects on the reproduction of copies of that gene in relatives) somehow differs from the “fitness” of a gene copy itself. But they’re the same thing! “Fitness” includes “inclusive fitness”!

But first, if you look up “fitness” in the OED, you’ll see that the first six definitions show a usage beginning well before Darwin, and it’s only the seventh (added in 1993) uses the evolutionary-genetic definition. Using “fitness” as an indication of relative “well-offness” is hardly an innovation of evolutionary biology. In our field, the term was not used to denigrate the disabled, but simply to expresses the relative number of copies of a given gene variant in the next generation compared to alternative variants of the same gene. In population genetics, “relative fitness” is traditionally expressed on a scale from zero (the gene leaves no copies of itself) to 1 [(the gene variant leaves more copies of itself than any other variant]). Thus fitness ranges from 0 to 1, and the numerical value is plugged into various population-genetic equations to see what really happens as opposed to what you think intuitively will happen. It is a mathematical concept whose name in biology comes from Darwin, who was not, as far as I know, ableist.

The first OED definitions:


Let’s move on. I invite those of you who are evolutionists to read the section following this assertion:

The ableist lens of fitness has led to incomplete or inaccurate biological understandings.

Yes, there are misunderstandings of fitness (one of them, they argue, is that fitness is dependent on the environment, something that is taught from the very beginning of evolutionary genetics), but they are simple misunderstandings and do not reflect viewing nature through the “ableist lens.”

The authors also disparage the use of the term “survival of the fittest” because, they argue, it not only disparages handicapped people, but has led to social darwinism, a philosophy embraced by capitalists. Well, that’s not our fault, and at any rate I teach my students that “survival of the fittest” is inaccurate, but is more accurately characterized as “reproduction of the fitter” (something I’m sure would still be considered ableist).

Now, the authors’ thesis, as I’ve stated, is that research in evolutionary biology is misguided because we view it through a “distorted lens of ableism” (an assertion that they confect, and cannot support except by making stuff up), and because that ableism discourages people from studying evolutionary biology. The second claim is hard to believe, and they provide no good evidence at all for it. It’s just the same old claim: “This stuff harms people,” a claim that is invariably unaccompanied by evidence. The authors’ evidential support consists solely of speculation and this bit (my bolding):

These ableist teaching practices also serve to alienate and marginalize disabled and chronically ill students (Hales 2020) and may be partially responsible for disabled students and scholars exiting the field, along with noninclusive teaching/ researching practices (Laurentino et al. 2021). The proportion of disabled evolutionary biologists is far below the population average (Rushworth et al. 2021; 10.8% vs. 26% overall), as is the proportion of doctorate recipients who are disabled (8.1% of life sciences PhD recipients in 2020 vs. the same 26% of the population; NCSES 2021), although this is very hard to study quantitatively given small sample sizes in present studies (Wanelik et al. 2020).

Have the authors not considered an alternative to the “inequity” data, data that they use to imply that somehow evolutionary biology discriminates against the disabled or discourages them, by using terms like “fitness,” from entering the field? The obvious alternative is that it is harder for disabled people (and some of these are mentally disabled) to get Ph.Ds, much less become working evolutionary biologists? Where are the control data from other academic disciplines not polluted by a eugenicist history and bigoted terminology? There are none. It mystifies me why a group of scientists haven’t thought of this obvious alternative (and more parsimonious) explanation. But of course the default explanation must be “structural ableism.”

We can dismiss the equity figures, then, but what about the Hales 2020 paper, which you can read here? (Its title is “Signaling inclusivity in undergraduate biology courses through deliberate framing of genetics topics relevant to gender identity, disability, and race.) This is just another paper like the one we’re discussing, but using genetics instead of evolutionary biology (they are, of course, tightly connected). It’s policing language as a way of fixing society.

And no, there are no substantive data in Hales’s paper showing that teaching conventional “ableist” evolutionary biology alienates students.  The paper, as you’ll see, is really an indictment of biology and undergraduate genetics for not using sufficiently woke language. Here’s one example: a table from the paper. I’ll leave it without comment, and discuss Hales’s “data”, such as it is, below.

So here are the sole data from Hales’s paper supporting Branch et al.’s claim about ableist evolutionary biology discouraging people from studying or entering the field:

Responses from Students and Colleagues

Undergraduate students in my courses have responded positively to recent intentional language shifts with regard to gender and disability, expressing appreciation verbally and on course evaluations for the efforts toward inclusivity. A subset of students readily adopted terms like “egg parent” and “sperm parent” into their written and oral vocabularies. For other students who did not demonstrate such a shift, it is not clear whether they were pushing back or were simply slower to adjust, especially because I acknowledged to students that I myself am still working toward consistency of language usage. There have been no explicitly negative responses. I aim to determine in the future whether students who have learned this terminology retain inclusive language choices long term. The approaches with regard to gender identity, disability, and race are applicable in some fields beyond genetics; colleagues not only in my department but also in other fields such as psychology who heard a presentation on these ideas have reported making relevant vocabulary changes in response to my suggestions.

There are no data here save the claim that some students (not even a majority is indicated) liked the new inclusive language, but also that some of them didn’t use it. Where are the data supposedly supporting Branch’s claim? I suspect there are no such data, and in that light there’s no reason to accept the authors’ thesis.

The paper ends with a demand—not a request—that we purge evolutionary biology of ableist language. Here we see the authoritarianism of this form of progressive politics:

How does evolutionary biology begin to divest from its eugenicist and ableist history and assumptions? First, it must demonstrate a constructive response to criticism; the field must be open to critique and engage with it in a responsible fashion. Instead of dismissing criticisms of our work as illegitimate social arguments, we should instead seek to refine our definitions and concepts to be more scientifically accurate.

Translation: “You better be open-minded about our arguments, but we don’t have to be open-minded about your arguments. You must fix your ableism, pronto.”

And the authoritarianism continues:

A defensive approach will not work. As a common example, we need to refrain from claiming that whatever ableist or eugenic connotations terms such as “fitnessand selectionmay have in the public sphere, we understand their apolitical technical definitions. This does not hold water because our views, and especially the views of scientists new to the field, are inevitably shaped by the public sphere and public discourse around evolutionary biologyhence the persisting popularity of survival of the fittest in general biology narratives and manuscripts. Similarly, we should cultivate dialogue among field members and refrain from adopting a defense of field members’ “academic freedom.

Translation: “Fix your language because it’s misused by other people to denigrate the disabled. And let’s hear no talk of ‘academic freedom’ or free speech. If you don’t do what we say, you’re ableist.”

My own response to this palaver is, “No, thank you.”

Why did The American Naturalist publish this? To show how virtuous it is, of course. For this paper will do absolutely nothing to help disabled people.


Branch, H. A. et al. 2022. Discussions of the “Not So Fit”: How Ableism Limits Diverse Thought and Investigative Potential in Evolutionary Biology. Amer. Natur. 202:101-114.

110 thoughts on “A once respected biology journal indicts evolutionary biology for ableism

  1. Pinker recently tw3373d about Archaeologists Anonymous – independent scientists (I guess) publishing their stuff w/o ideological intervention.

  2. Finally, I can say without reservation that we need to defund the police. The Language Police, that is. As far as I am concerned, they can take their alternative non-gendered terminology and shove it up their non-gendered blastophore, or is the deuterostome classification too binary for them?

  3. So none of the undergraduate students in Hales’s courses voiced opposition. To use an in-vogue concept, I wonder whether they would have felt “safe” doing so?

    1. That’s at least one of the major points. Or, I have far too often to say (under my breath), “just because you have silenced a man does not mean that you have converted him.”

  4. The evolution research group at my university discussed this paper. Apologies for length.

    Presentism is a risk in judging historical events and people. If the authors had been born in 1890 (like Fisher), is it possible they also would have joined the Eugenics Society, whose members were leading-edge evolutionists as well as progressive liberals trying to make the world better? If Fisher had been born in 1990, would he have been the kind of racist conservative who marched in Charlottesville? It is hard to know, and easy to make the wrong assumptions.

    Why do we need to atone for the eugenics sins of evolutionary biologists of 100 years ago? We should address ongoing bigotry and discrimination against disabled people happening today, but can do little about what happened in the past. Collective guilt and original sin are not helpful ways to think about norms of behaviour for 21st century evolutionary biologists, especially for those of us who worked hard to throw off the shackles of conservative religious upbringing.

    Is voluntary sterilization of profoundly disabled people always and irredeemably wrong? Of course this depends on the definitions of terms (especially “voluntary” and “profoundly”), and on collective values articulated in law. But for some definitions there are morally and legally defensible arguments in favour of this practice. And of course discussing that practice or its justification says nothing about the worth or value of any other disabled person as a human being.

    The authors base their arguments in part on their qualifications as disabled individuals. This kind of standpoint epistemology has risks because the authors’ own unconcious or implicit biases (their standpoint) may limit their understanding. This is specifically relevant to the authors’ argument that fitness is difficult to define, and that disabilities in nature may not be important for fitness (however defined). Here the authors’ standpoint as highly successful academics (if disabled to different degrees) creates a potential bias. Profoundly disabled people such as those who can’t read or write or become academics or publish journal articles seem likely to experience much more significant limits or deficits (including discrimination or bigotry by other people) that would cause low fitness by many definitions. Freddie deBoer has written about this gentrification of disability, which puts the trivial disabilities of people like these authors in the foreground, and trivializes the struggles of profoundly disabled people.


    Why this emphasis on problematic language of the past? Criticizing language does nothing to make the lives of disabled people better today. Possibly the authors of this paper see themselves as doing the right thing by contributing to the discourse on advocacy for disabled people in this limited and theoretical way. An obvious but unstated second motive is to burnish the authors’ credentials (for job applications in the case of the 3 junior authors) and to claim a place on one of the outer rings on the academic wheel of privilege.


      1. Sorry I didn’t mean to imply they are all disabled. From the Statement of Authorship, “We represent a diverse range of abilities, genders, and sexualities.” The three junior authors Branch, Klingler, and Byers are biologists and identify as disabled.


        It seems odd that Byers is not first author of the paper (Branch & Klingler “are to be considered joint lead authors”) but is more disabled and more intersectional than the other junior authors (wheelchair, identifies as “multiply-queer multiply-disabled”). So much for the wheel of privilege.

        [edit: I made a mistake in that Byers is a group leader at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, so not “junior” like the two grad student authors. Sorry!]

        The two senior authors Panofsky and Peers are sociologists. Panofsky’s faculty and wikipedia pages don’t indicate he’s disabled.

        Peers seems to be the prime mover in this work: disabled, queer, bowties and rainbows; also Canada Research Chair in Disability and Movement Cultures at the University of Alberta (one of Canada’s truly excellent but under appreciated universities).


        1. But they do not say anything abut :

          – color blindness
          – handedness
          – if cilantro tastes like soap
          – baldness

          … thus, by their lights, they “erase” the bald, the left-handed, the color blind (apparently not a legal disability but probably should be), and the privileged few who dig pile of Nachos Grandé with fresh cilantro.

          ^^^ of course not – that is my attempt to bring these performances to an absurd level.

    1. The statement that there is a background of 26% that identify as disabled. But that seems awfully high unless that counts those that were able-bodied when young (and were then committing to careers), but became disabled with age.

      1. This strikes me as a made-up statistic. These pop up all the time.

        My hospital required us to take an on-line course in confidentiality as part of our annual reappointment to the medical staff. In the material we had to read as to the justification of this exercise, a study was cited claiming that 26% of medical students — I kid you not. It was the same number! — had engaged in unprofessional behaviour that included betrayal of patient confidences. Sounds terrible.

        I knew this couldn’t be true because how would the study authors have ascertained the denominator — all American medical students?? So after I passed the course (took like 5 minutes to click on the right answers) I looked up the study the teaching module had cited. What the authors did was to send a survey to the deans of all the American medical schools asking them if they were aware of any instances of undergraduate students behaving unprofessionally that had been serious enough to be reported to the dean’s office. Of the small percentage who responded — deans are busy people even before DEI — 26% reported dealing with an incident such as a student photographing a patient’s interesting-looking skin rash and posting it to other med students in a social-media group. (You aren’t allowed to do this even with the patient’s oral consent.) Other events included exuberant discussions of patients by name in a crowded elevator. In my day we did this often, and I’m glad we stopped, but we knew not to mention names.

        So that’s one (or more, but usually one per dean) episode at 26% of schools whose deans were motivated to answer the survey. I took this up with the hospital’s Medical Staff Office. They thanked me but said nothing. Next year’s course was unchanged. The lie was clearly useful to someone.

      2. The phrase “identify as disabled” seems terribly…ableist. Can those who are disabled simply say “I identify as able bodied” and hey presto, change-o – they are suddenly able bodied. Its like a modern day version of Lazarus being raised from the proverbial dead! Who is the Messiah this time?

        A person cannot “identify” as disabled. They either are due to a health condition that renders them disabled to a greater or lesser extent. The extent will depend on the impact of the condition on their day to day life.

        A person who does not have a condition that renders them disabled cannot “identify as” disabled.

        This phrase of “I identify as….” with the idea of being to pick and choose from a smorgasbord of immutable characteristics really is the height of privilege…especially when its used to obtain “kudos” through virtue signalling and thus positions, influence, maybe even access services, support, status, and financial gain from the magic words of “I identify as….” when the person has not that characteristic at all and it can be proven to be the case that they are NOT what they “identify” as.

        So I wonder if that statistic is unrealistically high due a number “identifying” as something they blatantly are NOT.

        And saying one is something one is NOT is….a lie.

        Maybe society needs to point out this more often…lying is wrong. Saying one is something when one is not, is a lie.

        1. How about those who find no evidence for a “self” – begging the question of what “identity” is in the first place?

        2. That phrase ” identify as….” Is the craziest tool to ever come out of the progressives, Seems just recently we all were something or not something. If you agree to that terminology of “identifying as things” and even use it, you are opening up yourself to all kinds of absurdity. The entire point of identifying with x is precisely because you’re NOT x, otherwise you’d have just said i’am x. That phrase “identify as” is used like some Hogwarts spell, where I don’t need to show how or why I’m x? Just use that phrase and somehow you are what you claim.

        3. To play Devil’s Advocate, I can somewhat understand it if it’s something like my case where I have an extensive medical history of disability but a lot of it was an unknown condition at that time and medicine has changed since. And to this day, it still doesn’t fall under any known labeled condition.

          Despite having it marked on my medical record by multiple doctors that I have a significant genetic physical disability, that’s not enough for the government to count my impairment as a true disability. Nevertheless, I’m still massively hindered in my ability to do basic tasks to the point I’d need serious accommodations for almost any job.

          So I guess I “identify” as disabled in a sense, but not because I want to. I am skeptical that it’s similar to me, but there’s a possible case to be made it’s valid.

  5. From a very personal point of view: complete nonsense. I am disabled and have been from a very young age (meningitis since you ask 😉 ). I never felt discriminated against when I was at university studying biochemistry. In fact it was exactly the opposite: everyone went out of their way to help me as far as they could. I actually find it insulting to be honest to the memory of all the people who did their darndest all those years ago to help me who I feel are now being patronised by these people.

  6. No, thank you. Imagine just one of the crazy recommendations: eliminating the word “fitness” from the lexicon. Flipping the switch to a different term would create chaos, as the entire literature of population genetics would suddenly become incomprehensible. The past would disappear. Multiply that by all the other words that would change. “Egg parent.” You’ve got to be kidding. (No, you’re not.)

    While it’s easy to rail about the new words themselves and the old ones that simply *must* be replaced, the larger problem is how far the American Naturalist and other journals are willing to go. They claim to be helping the profession become more inclusive. But they are doing the reverse. What scientist would want to live in a police state?

    1. Well, it seems to be the fashion lately – redefine words to be something they are not or opposite to what they are; ban words that are clear and reflect material reality.
      Prevent groups who dissent from using words to name themselves – easier to dismiss those groups as irrelevant.

      Scream “…phobia” and “bigot” and “hateful” at anyone who challenges this wholesale capture and attack on language.

      Or even Mathematics now!

    2. Yup. The whole point is to make Science incomprehensible to those who take it seriously as a career. These idiots just problematise anything they deem to be a systemic power structure. The scientific value of evolutionary biology is unimportant to relativist ideologues. They spend their careers inventing, memorising and inflicting linguistic traps in order to derail conventional science.
      It’s called dismantling structures (that’s got to be a good idea, right?)
      It’s excruciating for genuine scientists to have to waste their time responding to such childishness.

  7. “.. the American Society of Naturalists, which publishes the journal, …”

    It’s technically a publication of our own University of Chicago Press, Journals Division, “on behalf” of the Society.. When I worked for Journals (in the 1970s), most of our publications were sponsored / under editorial control of some learned society, but the Press provided a panoply of services that got the issues out.

      1. While we are finding appropriate and pithy quotes, and much as I despise Ben Shapiro, he does have the right line for this:
        “Evolution’s facts don’t care about your feelings.”
        We may not like certain aspects of the world as we find it, but pretending it isn’t that way is going to end in tears. Every time.

    1. Ah, well put : I’m glad I left that for someone else to comment on! I had my comment typed in and everything! But you said it in _three_letters_.

    2. You can stop with the pearl clutching. This terminology is actually useful for species that have non-gonochoristic mating systems, such as C. elegans. It makes for a much more streamlined conversation around pedigrees and crosses for quantitiative genetics.

        1. Sorry for my snark! I felt that the views expressed in the paper are more nuanced than presented in the post. I felt the authors arguments about “disablism” to be quite compelling. It’s absolutely true that the level of disability across different phenotypes depends on the environment. It’s all about what accommodations we consider “reasonable.” Ramps or okay we’ve deemed, but why are we reluctant to extend this to other domains? I think it’s good to have some challenging papers.

  8. Just to say, since “eugenics” seems to be being treated as a word akin to “fascist” these days, that I see nothing wrong with voluntary eugenics. Indeed, many forms are accepted and popular. Screening for Tay-Sachs disease, for example, is widely practiced.

    As for involuntary eugenics, well, the problem there is the “involuntary” aspect.

  9. When I was a grad student long ago, a small group of us in Genetics occasionally rode our motorcycles together, and of course we called our little gang The Wild Types. This would be lost if Genetic terminology were changed in the interest of wokeliness. Other
    problems of more wokely terminology also come to mind. Of course both “variant” and “mutant”, carry negative connotations. “Selection” may be discarded as ableist, but won’t the Associate Dean for Diversity want to retain “diversifying selection”? Aren’t terms like “gene”, “allele”, “polymorphism”, “SNP”, and others offensive by leaving out the overriding importance of socially constructed systems of oppression? And finally, won’t the new terms “egg parent” and “sperm parent” tend to marginalize members of the other 79 sexes, make them feel unsafe, and discourage them from studying Genetics—or rather whatever new name the field receives?

  10. I’m flashing back 40 years to my days as an anthropology student, back when anthropology was still taught as a science. My favorite professor disabused us of the notion, “survival of the fittest.” He encouraged us to think of “survival of the fit,” that is, an organism fitting into its ecological niche. I loved my anthropology classes in those days and treasure my fond memories of them.

  11. I’m not a biologist but the response I used to give Bible thumpers who decried evolution as immoral as non fit animals and indeed humans are sacrificed to its ends is that evolution isn’t normative.

  12. I am trying to think of an example of an established scientific term-of-art being changed intentionally and successfully.
    All I got so far is that you don’t see ‘gender’ used as a synonym for ‘sex’ anymore. But that was not an organized change-by-fiat or change-by-consensus, it was more due to an increasing risk of being misunderstood, I think.

    1. Problem is that “gender” does not really have any fixed meaning. It can mean anything the individual who subscribes to the new pseudo religion of “gender” wants it to mean.

      Its a spectrum, except when it isn’t.
      Its referring to sex, except when it isn’t.
      Its binary, except when its a spectrum.
      There a few genders to many genders to infinite numbers of genders….(wow! 72billion genders on this planet spinning in space).

      Its a meaningless drivel, entirely based in sex based stereotypes that *dictate* how a person should “be” within their sex (see, sex is relevant when gender needs it to be) but if one does not follow those stereotypes but follows others then that is what their sex IS.

      It is said that a person’s “gender identity” is unfalsifiable and as such should be recognised and deemed relevant in all things over and above the person’s sex.

      Well, a religious soul is also unfalsifiable, but society has learned to accept that some will believe whole heartedly in such a concept and even build lives around it, but none of those people who believe in it are now permitted to *force others to do so*. Likewise, those who *reject* the concept are not permitted to *force* those who do to NOT believe. I would also say its way more difficult to “prove” there isn’t a god….whereas…

      A person demanding everyone believes they have a “gender” (aka sex) that is opposite to or not either of the two sexes that only exist (as science has proven), and thus they *are that sex (gender) for ever more* can be easily and simply proven as false.
      Eg: man says and insists he is a woman when its obvious visually (face, body proportions, gait, stance, posture etc – no need to be looking in pants *at all*), aurally (voice and tread) and also via tests (DNA) among many other methods, to prove his sex is and always was and always will be….male. (Same the other way and for the equally absurd “non binary” or “null” sex).

      “gender” needs to be dismissed as a term entirely – just take it back to what it was. A grammatical term to reflect material reality in language where it was relevant – eg when talking about a specific person – to enable and ensure clarity of communication.

  13. I assume many WEIT followers are familiar with with “Brave New World”. In that society the words “mother” and “father” were considered obscenities.

  14. When I hear woke advocates’ claims about some marginalized population being hurt or offended by some word or phrase, I want to ask the authors how they know this to be the case. Have they conducted surveys? Can they site any evidence whatever in support of this claim? More and more, the standard seems to be that anything a postmodernist “scholar” can come to believe in the course of “close reading” their topic, they can claim with absolute authority to be factually true. Based of course on their “lived experience”, although the relevant lived experiences are those of the groups they are claiming to be speaking on behalf of. Whom I doubt the advocates have any statistically relevant contact with. And when members of the groups tell woke advocates their views are BS, the advocates reply that they are “too white” or whatever. The advocates seem to have no trouble invoking their “standpoint epistemology” mantra well beyond the limits of their own standpoints.

    1. I am reading Pluckrose and Lindsay’s book “Cynical Theories” right now. They express the same concern about the attitude of the postmodern “woke” researchers and teachers.

  15. I’m curious about their disability data. They say 26% of the general population is disabled? Those must have been some very broad inclusion criteria because I’m just not seeing it. Even 8% disabled would seem quite high. Are they counting people with glasses? I’ve worn glasses for close to two decades and, while I certainly can’t see well without them, I would definitely not feel that’s enough to be counted as disabled.

    1. I wonder if it includes aged people who became disabled, but werent’ so when they were younger and choosing careers. If so, then yes that claim is pure b.s.

      1. Yes, I looked a bit more into it and their premise is just rubbish. There is a study that says 26% of the US population has (self-reported) disabilities (https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6732a3.htm) but that’s affected by the 65+ age category. Since most PhD students are in their 20s and 30s, we should compare to the 18-44 category which has a 16.6% disability rate. Still higher than the 8.1% for PhDs.

        But then we look at the actual categories. I’m ignoring “Independent living” because it’s not a disability itself but a consequence of the disabilities. Then we can add up various disabilities; hearing (2%), vision (2.7%), mobility (4.8%) and self-care (1.7%) add up to 11.2%. Some of those overlap. The biggest disability category was mental (10.6%) but a PhD is an intellectually challenging undertaking, so finding fewer people with mental disabilities doing a PhD is like being surprised that people with mobility disabilities are underrepresented in sports teams!

        Looking at the breakdown, I think there’s little evidence that there’s discrimination against the disabled, except for that related to ability to do the work.

    2. Your point brings out a contradiction in the use of the term “disabled” in the paper. If it’s at least partly true that, as randomgeneticdrift says, “the level of disability across different phenotypes depends on the environment” and that in today’s environment a shortsighted person is not to be considered disabled (whereas a few thousand years ago they could have found themselves severely handicapped), then the authors of the paper may be justified in questioning possible ableist assumptions in evolutionary biology. However, they blow their credibility in claiming that 26% of the general population is disabled.

  16. Karl Marx wrote that the purpose of sociology is not to describe society, but to change it. Based on the excerpts from American Naturalist, the purpose of evolutionary biology is not to describe the descent of species but to change species. As such, it looks like a New Eugenics. I’m reminded of an old saw about the Left: The Left always does what it accuses the other of doing. As for “virtue signaling,” it’s more a Profession of Faith. In trying times, including in the Academy, many want to be on the right side of God. But fear is the accuser, as always.

  17. I deplore all of this utter nonsense but I also deplore the fact that the rest of us have to waste our time on ignoramuses and ideologues. I know we have to protest what is going on but I feel that many responses often confer a credibility on these things that they dont deserve. So I guess lengthy rebuttals are needed in many cases but maybe we should ignore them or, better still, collect them in a (very long) book and publish them with rebuttals, and sell them cheaply so millions of people can read them and learn how they are being scammed and intimidated.

    1. We have allowed the children to run the kindergarten. It’s normal for young people to rail against the establishment, but to allow careers to be made in ‘dismantling power structures?’ We’ve let them in to academia, failed to resist their tautologies, and now we’ve got to work overtime to get rid of them.

  18. This is a classic case of performative woke activism—these academics think a bit of language policing will heal the world and absolve them from doing any genuine activism that would address structural problems faced by the disabled. Just another case of woke academics who are guilty over their own class privilege and elite status deciding to absolve themselves by attacking dead people and insisting on policing language, under the delusion that they’re making a difference.

  19. I agree that the basic argument about “ableism” is nonsense. Having said that, first, as a population geneticist, I never liked the mutant/wild type distinction. Perhaps genetic variants resulting from deliberate mutagenesis can be called “mutants”, but I’ve never liked the word for naturally occurring variants. And second, as I learned in teaching evolution, the word “fitness” is problematic, as most students associate it with a trip to the gym. However, neither of my issues have anything to do with “ableism”.

    1. I was about to write in the original post that I don’t really hear the distinction between “mutant” and “wild type” used so much anymore, except when you find a new mutation. They’re beating a dead horse here (oops–I forgot that “dead horse” is triggering because it implies animal cruelty).

      1. “They’re beating a dead horse here”

        I wonder whether “alive-ism” will be the next target for censure. Surely death is the ultimate disability.

        1. No doubt of it. New advisory word lists will advise the use of “vitally challenged” in place of “d**d”, an oppressive word which makes the vitally challenged feel unsafe.
          One exception, though: “dead white men” will still be permitted, as a standard term
          of opprobrium.

    2. To me, “mutant” is useful for natural variants but only when done with some care. I would use it to refer to a genetic change that is new and not typical in the population. But with emphasis on it being new. If the mutation persists, then one can start calling it something else.
      I don’t know why they would be against the term, unless it reminds one of something like birth defects (another term to be expunged). But a good % of those have nothing to do with changes in DNA.

      1. I was in pre-op for a cath-lab ablation when my heart specialist’s junior assistant came to go through the formalities. He asked if I had any questions. I said I had noted that the specialist is left-handed and “If the catheter gear is designed for right-handers, how smoothly will the procedure go?”
        He didn’t hesitate. “Yes, he is a bit of mutant. But I’ll keep an eye on him”.

    3. If most students are associating “fitness” with a trip to the gym, then it becomes a teaching point that it has other meanings/definitions *depending on the context* and to be adults they need to learn this very basic concept.

  20. How could you even pass this through peer review? Or is this the sort of article that even passes through that filter?

      1. That is a good and acerbic article! I especially like the last sentence about the problem: “If we create a button that, when pressed, magically requires everyone else to agree with your ideas and demands, people would be foolish not to press it.”

    1. Mark, it’s a good question. It turns out the call is coming from inside the house. The editor-in-chief Dan Bolnick *asked* for these papers to be submitted, then recruited a special editorial team of intersectional ecologists plus historians and gender studies professors to review them.


      This is not even the worst of the lot. That distinction goes to “How Neanderthals Became White: The Introgression of Race into Contemporary Human Evolutionary Genetics”, by Lisa Weasel (Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, School of Gender, Race, and Nations, Portland State University), who has “an A.B. magna cum laude in Biology from Harvard College and her PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Cambridge.”


        1. After humans and Neandertals met many thousands of years ago, the two species began interbreeding. While Neandertals aren’t around anymore, about two percent of the DNA in non-African people living today comes from them. Recent studies have shown that some of those Neandertal genes have contributed to human immunity and modern diseases. Now researchers have found that our Neandertal inheritance has contributed to other characteristics, too, including skin tone, hair colour, sleep patterns, mood, and even a person’s smoking status.


      1. I’m not a biologist so I’m unable to understand the paper on how “Neanderthals Became White”. Could you give a summary as to why her paper is the worst of the lot?

        1. I can’t summarize briefly, and my comments here are already too long. Superficially it’s a review of discoveries from Neanderthal genome sequencing. But fundamentally it mischaracterizes the history of discovering and understanding how some Neanderthal alleles got into modern human populations (=”introgressed”). Weasel then uses that deliberate misreading to accuse genetics researchers of white supremacy with zero evidence. I think it’s deeply misleading in a way that the Branch article and others in that series are merely dumb. But others might see other qualities of Weasel’s paper that I’ve missed.

          1. I see, thanks for the clarification! It’s hard to believe how someone with valid credentials like Weasel’s would sell out hard to ideology. At this rate, the practice of science itself would be compromised.

    2. Maybe – sadly – it’s about time for a scientific journal to get the Sokal / “Grievance Studies Affair” challenge of their peer review.

  21. It seems like one could make the case that *all* abortion is eugenics. If one wanted to set the cat amongst the pigeons.

    1. It’s only eugenics if you pay a bounty to a woman who will have an abortion for, say $1000, as Freakenomics proposed in a thought experiment to reduce violent crime. Your target audience is the woman who will take cash instead of a baby.

      True, abortion for fetal deformities and genetic disorders is explicitly eugenic but these are a small minority of all abortions and done from the perspective of the mother, not from that of the gene pool. The mother of an affected fetus is perfectly free to carry it and even let it reproduce if it is capable.

      1. I was thinking in a more “meta” sense. The very act of deciding not to carry a fetus that has been conceived is, in fact, a decision to change the collective genome to suit your preconceived ideas of which, or how many, people ought to exist. The mere fact that you yourself, or your potential offspring, are involved doesn’t make it any less “eugenic” in outcome.
        It’s a stupid idea, of course, but as I mentioned, the goal is only to cause aggravation to those who are causing so much trouble by stringing together words that are untethered to reality. This in the hope that they might have one of those “do I really sound like that” moments.

        1. I came back here just now. I don’t quite see that, Ken. If a woman decides to have an abortion just because she doesn’t want a baby, even if she knew the father was George Clooney and Albert Einstein combined, I can’t grasp that as a eugenic decision. She may be all for more babies of every kind. Just not hers right now.

          But if I think “meta”, perhaps I can see that the public policy of allowing a woman to abort is a sort of eugenic decision at the societal level….or at least it has eugenic consequences even if unintended. Looking up Sen. Raphael Warnock for another reason, I found that his pro-choice position was challenged by a group of Baptist pastors who urged him to reconsider, given the disproportionate impact of abortion on Black women and their unborn children.

          Have I heard you fairly?

  22. Is this true?
    “…persisting popularity of survival of the fittest in general biology narratives and manuscripts”
    This can actually be measured, right? Once again, no data adduced.

  23. I was surprised by the greatly positive reception that the authors gave “inclusive fitness” in the paper. One of the main predictions of IF is that if you need to make a choice as to who gets the benefit of your actions – it should almost always be the one most like yourself. Isn’t this is like the epitome of racist thinking?

    1. Yes, IF means helping out your tribe (relatives) over helping other tribes… but I’m mansplaining….

  24. Seems I have to pay $30 to read this garbage in the American Naturalist. Can’t believe they don’t think albinism isn’t usually disadvantageous.

    1. What? They want me to pay $30 to be educated on their enlightened demands on what I must do? Uff, that is just assetist, discriminatory against the financially challenged. How offensive to (I don’t know, lets just make up) 31% of the population! I suppose capitalist productivity is only aversive unless its your own capital at stake.

  25. Excellent piece because it ACTUALLY takes the offending article to task on its merits and shred it, instead of just throwing up its hands in indignation.

    The “real” problem (imnsho) is that most areas of academia are now devoid of any real, critical rigor. When I was a grad student in Astronomy a generation ago you’d be hounded out of the graduate student seminar for even using a term you hadn’t demonstrated a thorough understanding of. Reading the referenced article, devoid of most data, with almost nothing in supporting works, tenuous reasoning and contingent claims, you realize that academics now have realized that sophistry and corporate HR jargon can be substituted to give an air of rigor. Sadly, the Sokal Affair wasn’t the end of this abuse of academia but merely the sighting of the iceberg on the horizon. If we had a dime for each unsubstantiated claim, every use of “potential harm” and “possibly leads to” that is conflated not only with absolute and unique causation but that is also apparently so exigent to warrant the most proscriptive normative language… well we’d be millionaires.

    Lamentably there are few solutions. Defund the humanities? Maybe, but clearly the woke virus has infected the “hard” sciences too. Make college degrees irrelevant to employers? Sure but as an aspirational good (with no supply elasticity) good luck. I’m open to suggestions!

  26. It’s hard not to think of this in the same way as those people who are so upset about abortion they spend their days picketing abortion clinics, or that the focus on eradicating -isms from thinking is just like those who spend their days trying to erase the work of the devil from culture but right to censor anything vice.

    It’s surreal seeing this play out in science, as scientific language strives to be precise, and definitions tend to be restricted in a way that ordinary language isn’t. It should simply be enough to say that scientific language isn’t normative, and that any problems with institutional bigotry can be addressed without needing to rewrite science.

  27. The authors of this hypocritical, reactionary rubbish don’t seem to understand that they are creating the very conditions for the kinds of discrimination they claim to oppose: Human in-group/out-group behaviour is so deep rooted they can’t even see what they are doing. Ignoring the fact that few, if any, modern evolutionary theorists would support “othering” the disabled and disadvantaged, they have no problem with othering their imagined, straw men: “ableists”.
    The classism, sexism and eugenics of the early evolutionists were based on a simplistic, and fundamental, misunderstanding of the role that natural processes like evolution by natural selection do (or do not) play in generating meaningful human values. We need a much more intelligent understanding of this relationship so that there can be a synthesis between the science of human origins and the philosophical disciplines concerned with values such as ethics. If anyone is interested, I’ve written a series of general audience podcasts which outline how such a synthesis might look. (Transcripts are available; episodes Three, Six, Seven and Eight are especially relevant):

  28. Most people in society have at this point accepted that there are certain words which, over time, lose their original neutral meaning and gain a negative connotation.

    Society accepts that these words can be removed from the lexicon of appropriate language after a critical mass of people agree that they are offensive.

    I find it interesting how in woke academic groups, there is a move now to search for previously neutral terms, present as jargon in a variety of disciplines, and then to relabel these words as malicious and offensive.

    It’s not clear that the people supposedly offended by this jargon and terminology are in support of this widespread relabelling, much less the broader scientific community.

    This leaves the obvious conclusion that there are a small minority of activists seeking to make a name through this relabelling.

    The procedure looks something like this:

    1. Identify neutral terms that could be relabelled as offensive
    2. Write articles claiming that said terms actually are offensive
    3. Organize efforts to ban these words and replace them with new neutral words that meet the pre specified criteria of wokeist language
    4. Claim that equity, diversity and inclusion have improved now that the offensive language has been extirpated

    At the end of this sequence, I have a hard time believing that any real equity has been achieved.

    But there certainly will be more academics who gain success in publishing articles and achieve tenure from writing a lot of these opinions.

    This whole movement seems rather self-serving if the purpose is to invent these linguistic straw men just to knock them out or the lexicon, when it’s likely this doesn’t lead to any real improvement in the scientific endeavour or the meaningful goals of real equity and fairness in science.

  29. One absurd thing about this is that every single living being– disabled or not– exists because their ancestors were somehow “fit.” With evolution, there’s not really a better or worse outside of sheer survival. If you’re still alive, and still passing on genes, that’s all it takes. A literal sea sponge is considered “fit.” I really don’t think that naturalists are interested in making value judgments about the worth of different people based on supposed “fitness.” They only want to describe the mechanisms that pre-dispose certain creatures for survival.

  30. I’m disabled and resent the language policing. I have much bigger problems to try to manage than worrying if someone used “ablest” language around me. Virtue signaling seems to have replaced problem solving in some quarters of academia.

  31. Seeing this post led me to look at the special issue of the American Naturalist (July 2022), which I had not previously read. I read both the lead article (Kamath et al.: “Nature, Data, and Power: How Hegemonies Shaped This Special Section”) and the article in question here (Branch et al.: “Discussions of the “Not So Fit”: How Ableism Limits Diverse Thought and Investigative Potential in Evolutionary Biology”).

    I understand from Kamath et al. the motivation behind looking to avoid sociological biases in the fields of ecology, evolution, behavior, and genetics. Such biases potentially limit how individuals from diverse backgrounds would find an inclusive community in which to conduct their science. Further, the cultural biases behind what are considered a “good questions” in scientific fields are well known. I also appreciate the difficulty the editors of the American Naturalist faced when looking to integrate how social scientists approach “science and technology studies” into the mainstream of the topics in ecology and evolution covered by the American Naturalist. I’ve been party to other such efforts and can attest to how tough building cross-disciplinary understanding is.

    But I also have to agree that many of the criticisms of Branch et al. in this blogpost and some of the comments are deserved. I have a few examples.

    First, the article points to antiquated and seldom-used concepts (e.g. mutant-wild-type, survival of the fittest, deficit) as if they are commonly used and applied within this scientific field. Misuse of these terms by the general public does persist, but not because of the work of evolutionary biologists (e.g. “scientific creationism” has its own distinct roots). Second, several concepts of evolutionary biology defined either in simplified form (e.g. mutation comprises much more than single-nucleotide changes) or are just wrong (e.g. pleiotropy is misapplied). Third, the authors seem to suggest that eugenics and social Darwinism created European racism. They are linked, but it’s probably more truthful that evolution by natural selection was co-opted by racists, sexists, and others who practiced typological ideals to justify their malign viewpoints to given themselves scientific credibility. The article is rife with more examples of this kind of poor understanding of the basics of evolutionary biology.

    Unfortunately, the poor scholarship is applied to one of my own papers from 2012 advocating for teaching evolutionary biology to biomedical students, since so many undergraduates are motivated by their interest in medicine and human health. Our viewpoint it taken out of context:

    “In addition, modern teaching of evolutionary biology often uses disabled or chronically ill people as an approachable example of a low-fitness population whose survival and fitness would be limited or zero in a natural setting. This approach has even been championed as a way to increase student interest and participation in learning evolutionary biology, as well as a valuable way to introduce evolutionary concepts into modern medical practice (Antolin et al. 2011). However, by encouraging the use of human disability as a model for evolutionary biology study, these approaches instead move disability out of the range of normal human variation and into a pathological space (Hales 2020), encouraging both evolutionary biologists and medical practitioners to see their disabled colleagues and patients as pathological individuals whose continued existence is solely due to the beneficent actions of a compassionate, just society—a stark contrast from the lived experience of disabled individuals who in reality experience medical injustice and ableism from society (Peña-Guzmán and Reynolds 2019).”

    In our article, we not only advocate that human evolution provides a valuable context for students to understand the origins and causes of the full range of variation in human health, we also directly critique eugenics. We reject the frameworks of eugenics, instead pointing out that eugenics hindered development of both evolutionary biology and the medical sciences.

    Disparities in health care exist along numerous axes, across the globe (e.g. ongoing COVID pandemic). No doubt these disparities cause harm, especially distress individuals with disabilities, and remain a fundamental “wicked problem” worldwide. But laying this at the feet of evolutionary biologists as an edifice of their making, based on poor scholarship and and fundamental misunderstanding of why we study evolution, is simply disingenuous.

    Again, I appreciate the effort. We can all do better, always.

  32. I want to chime in here from the perspective of the Editor In Chief of The American Naturalist (well, until my term ended last weekend).

    This article was part of a special issue in which we invited papers at the intersection of humanities and sciences, to see what perspectives would arise from a collaboration between researchers in these fields. The articles had to be co-authored by both science and humanities academics, and were co-reviewed by both scientists and humanities researchers, and each was handled by a special team of Associate Editors (not our usual board) appointed for this task, with each paper being handled by one biologist and by one social scientist writing a decision jointly.
    Because of this unique charge for this one special issue, we fully expected that the tenor of the papers in this special issue would be different from the typical AmNat paper. Moreover, we expected that these articles would stimulate debate and lively discussion in the spirit of an intellectual conversation. I appreciate your efforts to contribute to this lively discussion.

    That said, I might have preferred you not extrapolate from this one article, or this one issue, to the journal in its entirety. Outside this special issue, the criteria for papers published in The American Naturalist is unchanged, and we maintain a peer review process that most authors will tell you is more thorough and rigorous than most journals. You are encouraged to pick up any recent issue to reassure yourself of this point.

    As has long been true in sciences, some papers make controversial claims that attract dissent. As noted above, one of the goals of the special issue was to stimulate debate. Dissenting views on the points expressed in the papers published in the American Naturalist can of course be expressed via social media or blogs as you do here, but can also be pursued by submitting a manuscript Comment to the journal, focused on errors of fact or interpretation. Should you choose to engage in this conversation through the traditional means of submitting a Comment for review and possible publication, we can guarantee that the manuscript will be subject to a fair and thorough review.

    Dan Bolnick

    1. Sorry, but the journal is not exculpated from accepting one of the most godawful papers I’ve ever seen. Was there ANY editorial judgment exercised? You’re the editor; you could have stopped it or made the authors revise it or, god forbid, give EVIDENCE for their claims.Furthermore, you justify the paper on the ground that it stimulated debate, but that debate was mostly (as you see from the comments) over how dreadful, misguided, and “progressive” the article was. It wasn’t a debate so much as a debacle. As for the journal, yes, I’ve looked at issues over the years and in my view the quality is declining from the days when it was coequal with Evolution as a great journal to publish papers. That is not your fault; it’s been going on for years. One thing that could at least impeded the decline is to stay the hell away from ideology and politics. (I was an associate editor for a long time and have published a fair amount in Am. Nat.)

      As for the other comments in the special section, they are all of an extreme left-wing “progressive” ideological bent. This is no attempt to spark debate, but an attempt to bully your readers into accepting a single political point of view. So no, it’s not just one paper, and I invite the readers to look at the rest of them. It’s as if Scientific American was in charge of this section.

      I am not going to submit a comment because, given the political direction of the journal, I don’t believe for a minute that the ms. would be given a “fair and thorough review”. I’ve seen too many rejections of “anti-woke” papers submitted in response to papers like this one. Would it be given the same type of review that that awful paper under discussion was? Because that paper doesn’t look as if it were reviewed at all! For one thing, it was full of unsubstantiated claims.

      Seriously, your journal has embarrassed itself by even commissioning this series. Am Nat. would be better off if it stuck to its original mission—presenting good science—and stayed away from politics, ideology, and social engineering. The ASN is also going this way, having expunged the names of famous scientists from its prizes. Did people think that would improve society?

    2. Came back to look for other comments and read this. The problems with that article are not just its ideological bias as Jerry noted but also its flawed premises and reasoning. Presentism, collective guilt & original sin, standpoint epistemology, gentrification of disability, language policing. Would Dan (or even better the authors of the article) be willing to address those?

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