The most extreme incursion of ideology into ecology and evolution I’ve ever seen

June 2, 2023 • 10:45 am

The paper below, which is likely paywalled if you click on the screenshot (but a pdf is still accessible here) shows how deeply my own field, organismal biology, has been infected by ideologues—deeply authoritarian ones. It’s from a once-respectable journal (Trends in Ecology & Evolution), which apparently has now drunk the Kool-Aid of “political correctness” (“wokeness,” if you will), producing an article that is so bizarre and so  off-putting, that none of the several colleagues I sent it to could finish it.

But I did, saving you the trouble. (It’s short, though, so you should read it from the pdf link if you’re an ecologist or evolutionist.) If Ibram Kendi were a biologist of this type, this is the paper he would have written, for, as you’ll see, it’s right out of the CRT playbook. It is full of distorted, overblown, or purely speculative assertions, and here are its major points:

a.) Ecology and evolution are thoroughly permeated by racism—structural racism that is deeply embedded in the way we still do science.

b.) We (here I mean “people not of color”) are all complicit in this racism, and we must constantly ponder our bigotry and persistently try to rid ourselves of it.

c.) Our curriculum is thoroughly “Eurocentric” and has to be “decolonized” for the good of all.

d.)  Ecology and evolution cannot be taught properly without continually emphasizing the racism of the fields, racism said to be a big source of inequity in STEM. We must infuse all of our courses with a strong emphasis on the history and reality of racism, showing our students how the field was and is complicit in the creation of present inequities.

I don’t know whether to critique the whole thing point by point, or let you see the problems yourself. I think I’ll try a hybrid approach.

The abstract:

Racism permeates ecology, evolution, and conservation biology (EECB). Meaningfully advancing equity, inclusion, and belonging requires an interdisciplinary antiracist pedagogical approach to educate our community in how racism shaped our field. Here, we apply this framework, highlight disparities and interdisciplinary practices across institutions globally, and emphasize that self-reflection is paramount before implementing anti-racist interventions.

The short answer to the first sentence is, “No it doesn’t.” Yes, you can find instances of bigotry in the field, as you can everywhere, but no rational biologist I know would make such an extreme and unsupported statement unless they have an ideological agenda that requires this claim.

The article starts, as do all of its ilk in science journals, by invoking George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. It then proceeds onto boilerplate Critical Race Theory:

Anti-racist pedagogies ‘teach about race and racism [to foster] critical analytical skills [and reveal] power relations behind racism and how race has been institutionalized’ [5]. Unlike inclusive pedagogy, anti-racist strategies not only involve acknowledging students’ backgrounds and perspectives but also require combating oppressive systems favoring Whiteness at the expense of minoritized students. Traditional science history teachings provide one example of how EECB perpetuates racism systemically. When EECB instructors focus primarily on foundational accomplishments of White European men (e.g., Darwin, Mendel) while ignoring why women and people of color were excluded from science and education for centuries, they reinforce that EECB, and STEM broadly, is advanced only by White European men and that women and people of color do not belong.

This pernicious form of oppression and ethnocentrism reinforces systemic racism in higher education globally, which contributes to (i) academic disparities of minoritized STEM students in the USA, UK, and Australia [6,7]; (ii) mistreatment of international postdoctoral scholars of color in Canada, Australia, and European countries [8]; and (iii) underrepresentation of Black, Latinx, Native American, and [6,7]; (ii) mistreatment of international postdoctoral scholars of color in Canada, Australia, and European countries [8]; and (iii) underrepresentation of Black, Latinx, Native American, and Asian persons broadly in EECB in the USA [2,9]. This has downstream impacts, including stereotyping international postdoctoral scholars during faculty hiring processes in the USA and UK [8] and a 1.8-fold and 1.9-fold advantage for White faculty receiving federal funding compared with Black faculty in the USA and UK, respectively [10]. Breaking these cycles requires departments and institutions to identify and counter the racism that has shaped EECB.

What do you do about this? Well, you could try teaching straight ecology and evolution, as we do at the University of Chicago, but that wouldn’t contain enough ideology to satisfy the authors, and wouldn’t make people of whiteness feel guilty enough. Plus it would, the authors claim, perpetrate racism, and fail to make us feel sufficiently guilty for being complicit in a system that, according to the authors, seems mainly constructed to oppress people.  The solution? Deeply imbue your courses with modern “progressive” antiracism, pointing out both past and present bigotry whenever possible, and also always keep in mind our own bigotry:

To promote racial awareness, EECB must be anti-racist and interdisciplinary. This means discussing racism in courses, even in those in which race is not the subject matter. . . .

We implore instructors to first reflect on their positionality with racism and identify how multiple disciplines inform the course content through anti-racism (see ‘Step one’ section). Although self-reflection is imperative, we do not imply that this is ‘one and done’ to become anti-racist. Critical self-reflection about racism requires continuous effort [5] and while there are many recommended interventions [1,2], it is a myth to be ‘fully racially aware’ before implementation. Having the vulnerability to apply interventions and learn through failure while reacting openly to feedback rather than defensively is how we move toward antiracism, and continued self-reflection helps identify defensive behaviors. This is necessary to truly couple interdisciplinary and anti-racist strategies to create a more authentic and inclusive learning experience for students and instructors.

This of course sets up race and racism as not only the major social problem to be (and presumably that can be) ameliorated through teaching college courses in ecology and evolution, but also browbeats the instructor to adopt that point of view. In this sense the article is divisive, because it trains us to ALWAYS look at and ponder race, even when teaching our courses.  I can’t help but think that scientists hectored to adopt this kind of ideology will resist it, since what most of us really want to do is teach and do research in ecology and evolution, reserving our efforts to save the world for personal time outside the classroom. Most of us don’t envision ecology and evolution as an form of ideological indoctrination: that’s not why we went into the field.  While of us are on the Left, we try to keep that out of our classes.

The authors give several examples of how traditional education is filled with racism. The most invidious, to me, is their take on Darwin:

One topic discussed the traditional history of Charles Darwin followed by the untold histories of John Edmonstone, the Black former slave who taught Darwin taxidermy, and Syms Covington, a servant who organized Darwin’s collection during the HMS Beagle expedition. Darwin’s historic accomplishments would have been impossible without Edmonstone and Covington. This offers many avenues for discussion: (i) Darwin’s development of ecological and evolutionary theories (e.g., ethnocentrism); (ii) Darwin’s privilege in traveling on the HMS Beagle; (iii) the racism, erasure, and classism behind the histories of Edmonstone and Covington; and (iv) the social constructs behind restricting dissemination of Darwin’s discoveries (i.e., those with access to education) and shaping the public’s common knowledge about Darwin but not Edmonstone and Covington (e.g., exclusion, oppression). Similar histories exist across other biology disciplines (Table 1).

While it is an interesting historical sidelight that Darwin was taught to preserve specimens in Edinburgh by a former slave, and that he took on a cabin boy as his personal assistant—Covington, who replaced a sailor appointed by Captain FitzRoy to assist Darwin—to say that Darwin’s “historic accomplishments would have been impossible without these two men” is arrant nonsense.  For one thing, had Darwin not learned taxidermy from Edmonstone, he would have learned it from someone else. Yes, Edmonstone was black, and his contribution to Darwin’s education should be pointed out, but it’s crazy to pretend that Darwin could not have written the Origin (or his many other works) without Edmonstone. (Steve Gould, for one, though that Darwin’s other work, including on barnacles, played a key role in formulating Darwin’s ideas.) As my former student Joe Cain (who helped dig out out the forgotten association between Darwin and John Edmonstone) wrote:

Accounts in the 21st century tend to exaggerate John’s importance to Darwin as distinct from the many other people in his orbit. He’s presented as “the man who taught Darwin” and the person who inspired him to look towards South America for its amazing natural history. In comparison, we must balance this with reflections on what Darwin said about other people, such as Robert Edmond Grant for inspiration while in Edinburgh (Desmond 1984); Alexander Humboldt for imagining the “entangled bank” of the South American rainforest (Wulf 2016); and Syms Covington for teaching specific technical skills in taxidermy (MacDonald 1998). The amplification of John’s role in Darwin’s work surely is an example of heritage’s impact on historical study. Likewise, seeing John only through the lens of Darwin’s seeming eminence does him a disservice. He has his own story to tell, such as in the history of taxidermists and taxidermy as a skilled trade. Likewise, Desmond and Moore (2009) point to Edinburgh in the 1820s as an important location for once-enslaved, now-emancipated men. There is much to learn.

Accounts in the 21st century also exaggerate the supposed “hidden” nature of the association between John and Darwin. To me, John’s story seems an exemplar for the “invisible technician” role so well known and long studied in history of science, technology, and medicine. In 2009 a commemorative plaque to John Edmonstone was installed near the site of his home in Edinburgh, though it was later stolen and has not been replaced. (I would like to see a replacement installed, and I’ll help raise the money to do it. I’ve asked Historic Scotland.)

Many, many people contributed to both the physical efforts and mental lucubrations that went into Darwin’s theories. For example, Edmonstone learned crucial methods of preserving skins from his former slave-holder, Charles Waterton, who could be said to have made a contribution to Darwin’s taxonomy coequal to that of Edmonstone. Waterton, whose contribution was essential, is not mentioned above. And it’s likely that had Edmonstone not set up shop to teach taxidermy in Edinburgh, Darwin would have learned it himself. After all, even after leaving Edinburgh, Darwin continued to follow the literature on taxidermy to improve his skills.

As for Covington, he was a replacement for another sailor appointed to be Darwin’s helper, but Darwin didn’t think it fair to take a regular sailor, as opposed to a cabin boy, away from the ship. Darwin would have had an assistant no matter what. Remember, he had money (his voyage was funded by his father).

This is not to denigrate the contributions of Edmonstone and Covington, for they should surely be mentioned in Darwin’s biography, and it is remarkable that a black man had a taxidermy business in 19th-century Edinburgh. The problem with this argument is that we know so little about Edmonstone’s interactions with Darwin (see Cain’s article) that we can’t even judge how much of the taxidermy Darwin used on the Beagle came from the former slave. We know more about Covington, who, is amply discussed in Darwin’s biographies.

The point is that many, many people made crucial contributions to the nexus of circumstances that evntually led to Darwin’s ideas. Another was the British ornithologist John Gould, who analyzed Darwin’s collection of birds and showed him that what Darwin thought was a sundry mixture of wrens, finches, mockingbirds, and other species really included a large group of finches. That got Darwin thinking about relatedness, island endemism, speciation, and common descent, absolutely critical for Darwin’s ideas.  Finally, even Fitzroy himself collected birds on the voyage, and donated the collection to the British Museum. I’m not sure if he did the taxidermy himself.

The point is that there were others who made contributions to Darwin’s labors at least as significant as Edmonstone’s and Covington’s, and to say that Darwin’s ideas would have been impossible without those two men is not only the height of hyperbole, but also bizarre. It is only in the service of ideology that authors can make a statement like that.

Unlike the technical contributions of Edmonstone and Covington, Darwin’s achievements, and his fame today, was due to how he worked out ideas from them: evolution and natural selection. This was largely sui generis, stemming from Darwin’s genius on top of his synthesis of data from people around the world.  I strongly suspect that he would have had those ideas without taxonomy, as the bird collections in the Galapagos played no clear role in Darwin’s thinking: they aren’t mentioned in The Origin, and he drew on many other lines of evidence in his big book.

There is also a big two-column table, with “traditional” teaching given in the first column, and the authors’ recommended “anti-racist” examples in the second. I’ll just give a couple of examples (click them to enlarge):

Henrietta Lacks (a black woman who died of cervical cancer) did not have her cells “stolen”. At the time, it was not going procedure to ask any patient if their cells could be used, and in fact the cells of several people, including Dr. Gey himself, were cultured. It turned out that Lacks’s cells were robust to tissue culture, and have been widely used (given away, not sold, though some companies made money from them). In her wonderful book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, all of this is recounted by author Rebecca Skloot (I reviewed that book very positively in 2010.)  Now we have become more enlightened and ask patients if we can use material from their bodies for research, but it’s simply impossible to claim that Lack’s cells were “stolen”, any more than any other cells were stolen. There is a lawsuit that’s been going for several years against a company that profited from using her cells (called “HeLa” cells).

Darwin is in the table, but we’ve already discussed him.

And here’s how we should revise our teaching of “environmental science”:

What is added to teaching the toxic effects of Agent Orange by saying that black soldiers were most at risk (black GIs were overrepresented among combat troops), or that the military was integrated in wartime? Only as a way to find a racial hook to environmental science, which normally wouldn’t include discussions of Agent Orange, anyway.

There is, I claim, no way that you can’t find a way work race into any topic in ecology and evolution, no matter how convoluted your investigations have to be. Here’s a convoluted one:

What this has to do with ecology and evolution baffles me.  Does it mean that every time you mention a college, you have to try to find some hook, however tenuous, to race? In this case it’s doubly removed from Harvard: Harvard trained ministers, and some of those ministers preached to indigenous people. Seriously? Do you need to say this in a course on ecology and evolution?  Does it reduce racial tension?

Finally, there is the pervasive assumption that inequities reflect ongoing and system racism, something that, when you deal with minorities, cannot automatically be assumed. Different groups can submit more grants per capita (thus getting a lower per capita funding rate, since if you get one grant it’s less likely you’ll get more), submit propsals to areas which are less likely to give grants (we know this is true for some groups), and so on. I invite you, if you wish, to scrutinize the claim below and then examine reference supporting it, as it’s part of the author’s claim that there is ongoing racism in science:

. . . . [there is] a 1.8-fold and 1.9-fold advantage for White faculty receiving federal funding compared with Black faculty in the USA and UK, respectively [10].

In general, I think that the authors have played fast and loose with the historical facts and scientific data in order to indict ecology and evolution, and I’m surprised that TREE, historically a good journal, would publish a paper in which the claims are not closely scrutinized and the data not examined to see if they actually support the authors’ claims. All I know is that TREE would never publish a critique of that paper like the one you’re reading now.

Some of  authors actually taught a seminar on this topic, and if you read the paper, you’ll see that the seminar is about ideology, not ecology and evolution, and its goal is to propagandize students with the tenets of Critical Race Theory: pervasive oppression by whites, continuing structural racism, a never-ending struggle for power, and so on. Here’s part of the “pedagogy”:

Anti-racist pedagogy: Reflecting on how our identities and privileges relate to racism: By the second seminar, students read articles about racism in STEM (see Table S1) and completed a journal reflection on how their identities and privileges relate to racism. Then we had small- and large-group discussions (instructor facilitated large-group discussion) about the readings and assignment.

And that is the problem with articles like this: they try to turn science into a vehicle for ideology and politics. The purpose of ecology and evolution courses is turned sharply away from actually teaching the subject to using it to propagandize students with a particular view of society and social justice. And, as the authors say, you can (and should) do this in every course.

This is a diversion from the purpose of science education and, what’s more, this kind of breathlessly hectoring instruction is likely to be divisive. We can see this in the way that the authors struggle to find some lesson about race in everything about ecology and evolution. People who actually want to learn the subject may be turned off by such a program, and certainly it’s not going to accomplish its purpose of bringing people together. With the relentless focus on racism, guilt, and the need for white people to constantly scrutinize their persona for bigotry and indict the field, it can lead only perpetual divisions between ethnic groups.

34 thoughts on “The most extreme incursion of ideology into ecology and evolution I’ve ever seen

  1. I fear that we may have reached the point where once-respectable journals are terrified to reject nonsensical ideological screeds such as this one for fear that they’ll be called “racist” if they do.

    1. I think previous examples have shown that it’s far worse: most of the journals considered respectable are now being run by people who believe in this stuff, will continue to publish it, and will not accept any dissent.

  2. Benjamin A. Ha’s profile at the blog site reads “I write about my revelations. 98% of my revelations address varying levels of discrimination. 2% is about chocolate.”

    So nothing about ecology, evolution or conservation biology then …

      1. The sarcasm is ingrained. These are people who are fundamentally un-serious about anything except identity politics.

  3. Yes, by all means, let’s continue to make white people feel guilty and keep telling people of color that they are helpless victims suffering constant oppression. That will help build a vibrant, diverse scientific community, for sure! /s

    How utterly ridiculous. Thank you, PCCE, for pointing this out.

    1. Her UCLA obit and the subsequent links to mental health services hint strongly at suicide as cause of death. One has to wonder how much that victim mindset contributes to poor mental health.

  4. If all science is colonial and racist because it was created (mostly) by white men, then are we going the path of India, which “decolonized” its school curriculum by removing evolution and the periodic table?
    As you pointed out, all of this anti-science nonsense began after the tragic death of George Floyd, which is now being exploited to attack all institutions in an absurd way. How shameful to exploit that tragic incident for political gain as these authors do.

  5. The article appears not to be open-access: when I click the image I get a TREE page with the Abstract and and author information plus options to purchase access. [Edit: same when I go straight to the home page for the journal.]

    It’s clearly racist to force people of colour in the global south to pay for access to this article. Surely someone like Paul Barber (whose research I long admired) has a few thousand bucks lying around to pay the APC.

  6. I’ve inserted two words into one of Jerry’s sentences: “What [any of] this has to do with ecology and evolution baffles me.” Exactly. How could understanding how life flourishes and propagates ever be racist? Baffling indeed.

    And the bit about Darwin’s helpers doesn’t negate the obvious, or to quote Jerry: “Had Darwin not learned taxidermy from Edmonstone, he would have learned it from someone else.” Exactly again.

  7. I need to find that excellent quote by Helen Pluckrose about the notion that science is “white”

    1. And here it is (not sure if it is 100% relevant for this post):

      From :

      An excerpt :

      [H. Pluckrose]:

      “It is absolutely essential that we make more people aware of this aspect of the “Decolonise” movement, in particular. I don’t think I have ever seen anything more imperialist than claiming STEM to be white & Eurocentric. Complete ahistorical nonsense that can only be written by someone who has never had to try to work with the “maths” that existed before Europe adopted Arab numerals and maths. As a late medievalist, let me inform you that trying to do maths working in 7s over 20s in Roman numerals as Europeans did before this is a primary reason for so many calculations of anything from that period being wrong.”

      [end quote]

      See the post for more – “trenchant”, as PCC(E) accurately put it.

  8. The paper’s suggested course of action strikes me as racist. It removes the sense of grandeur and excitement from biology, thus preventing students of color from experiencing and appreciating the history of discovery for themselves — and replaces it with a bitter, aggrieved narrative of slights and oppression. Instead of being inspired, they will become resentful; instead of learning about nature, they learn that they need to focus primarily on themselves and how they never got a fair break and likely never will.

    What a loss. They deserve better.

    1. And white people are also to focus primarily on themselves- we are to spend our conscious efforts on constant questioning of our racism. I am all in favor of people questioning their bigotry and developing more tolerant and open minds and behaviors. But this navel-gazing guilt-ridden method is not going to accomplish that. One of the experiences I love about practicing in my field was getting completely lost, immersed in it. I know I am not alone in that.

    2. Yes. And any intelligent person could be forgiven for wondering whether this mindset of bitterness and resentment contributed to the February death of one of the young authors. Her UCLA obituary and the ensuing links to Mental Health Services strongly suggests suicide.

  9. While [most] of us are on the Left, we try to keep that out of our classes.

    Quite so, but I can’t help wonder if making sure that there was opportunity for scientists ‘on the Right’ to be included in the last 50 years or so might not have anchored the political window somewhere in the less extreme middle. When most are on the Left already the march is likely to always be leftward, driven by activists.

    1. It’s not enough to keep this junk science out of the classroom. It is overdue for the left to go after the woke, the IP and the whole black neo stalinist doctrinaires who are using the same playbook as Stalin did, against Vavilov and for Lysenko. You guys on the left who are fed up need to enter the battle fiercely, ferociously,
      no holds barred. WEIT is a good place to exchange ideas but
      the real world is under threat from its own kind of war and if you dont challenge it every minute it raises its ugly head, you are complicit with the loony left. This is a battle and we need your help. Get angry! Get involved!

      1. I hate this woke nonsense as much as any patron of WEIT, it honestly drives me round the bend. Also, I’m fully convinced that NOTHING good comes from the politicisation of science, especially when ideology is used to subvert truth. But I think it’s easy to get carried away with how dangerous it really is.

        In principle, what we are witnessing is similar to the Lysenko affair in the USSR, but the similarity stops there. We only know about Lysenko because his quackery was enabled by Stalin – a cruel tyrant who held the power of life and death over every citizen. He was happy to see millions starve to serve the cause of Marxism-Leninism, so that’s what happened.

        Wokeness is definitely affecting academia, and to a worrying degree, but it’s having minimal impact on the rest of society. Yes, this could change, but without the sort of patronage that Lysenko had, it’s unlikely to lead to calamities.

        Why? Well, in the absence of a despotic patron, movements like Critical Social Justice can’t go on forever – people see stupid and annoying wokesters doing stupid and annoying stuff, and become sick to the back teeth with it. It’s like stretching an elastic band; the more you stretch it, the harder it gets to keep stretching it, and sooner or later it’s gonna correct by snapping back.

        Just a hint of any correction in the USSR would cause Stalin to send you to the Gulag, or have you shot. However, the situation we see today is light years away from that, and we’re certainly not at the stage that could be considered a war! Maybe I’m deluded, but I’ve noticed that the elastic band is under a lot of strain across many contexts, and at least in a few of those, it’s about to stop. I don’t think it will be long before the bands start snapping back.

        1. I think the victims of Stalin, Mao, Hitler (a national socialist who hated the free market ststem) all thought the same thing – “this will correct itself before it gets too bad”

  10. I can easily imagine courses in the history of biology, geology, physics, mathematics, etc., that cover controversies such as the HeLa case and many others. It even makes sense to include material on how structural “isms” in the past may have influenced the way we do science today. (The present state of a discipline is surely an outcome of how that discipline was practiced in the past—its cultural, sociological, nationalist, linguistic, and other influences.) These are all reasonable topics for intellectual consideration. But it makes no good sense to imbue the entire subject with self-flagellation. What would a course in ecology, or evolution, or geology, or physics, or be if it were polluted with all kinds of non-science material? It would be an incoherent mess. Let the science be science.

  11. “Black GIs were overrepresented among combat troops…”

    I suspect that is one of those data points that keeps being repeated until everyone assumes it is accurate. The narrative seems to have been decided that the war in SE Asia was fought mostly by draftees, often Black, who were used as cannon fodder.

    From the American Legion-
    88.4% of the men who actually served in Vietnam were Caucasian; 10.6% were black; 1% other races.
    86.3% of the men who died in Vietnam were Caucasian (includes Hispanics); 12.5% were black; 1.2% other.
    34% of blacks who enlisted volunteered for the combat arms.”

    1. I knew the canard was false, Max, and I thank you for posting the figures from The Legion.

      The figures are especially striking when you consider that working-class men of any race are assumed (correctly?) to be more likely to enlist voluntarily or be drafted into combat roles than upper-class men who could (if they chose) use pull to keep themselves out of the rice paddies. Since black men on average earn lower incomes than whites, you’d expect them to be over-represented in infantry units and in combat deaths. But they weren’t. White America stepped up.

      1. I can recommend “An Unheralded Victory” by Mark William Woodruff for a different perspective on the whole sorry business.

  12. “Racism permeates ecology, evolution, and conservation biology.”

    How do they know? Well, they just “know” thanks to woke revelation! – That article of faith reminds me of what Ernest Gellner writes about the “critical theory” of the neo-Marxist Frankfurt School (Horkheimer, Marcuse, Adorno), which is one of the ideological roots of critical race theory:

    “What was distinctive about the Frankfurters was a tendency to decry the cult of objective fact as such, and not merely its alleged misapplications. An excessively fastidious, methodologically punctilious preoccupation with /what is/, was, under the guise of disinterested inquiry, an attempt to legitimate /that which was/, by somehow insinuating that nothing else /could be/. A real, enlightened, /critical/ thinker (/à la/ Frankfurt) did not waste too much time, or probably did not waste any time at all, on finding out precisely what /was/; he went straight to the hidden substance under the surface, the deep features which explained just why that which /was/, was, and also to the equally deep illumination concerning what /should be/. Unenslaved to the positivist cult of what /was/, the investigation of which was but a camouflaged ratification of the status quo, a genuinely critical free spirit found himself in a good position to determine just what it was that should be, in dialectical opposition to that which merely /was/. Those were the days when a ‘positivist’ was a man invoking facts against Marxism; nowadays, he is anyone who makes use of facts at all, or allows their existence, whatever his aim.” (p. 33)

    “In practice, the Frankfurters and their followers, freed by their elevated depth (Karl Popper’s apt phrase) from any tedious superficial positivist fact-grubbing, gave themselves licence to disclose their own private revelations or intuitions concerning both the deep and the ideal.” (p. 34)

    (Gellner, Ernest. /Postmodernism, Reason and Religion./ London: Routledge, 1992.)

  13. “Most of us don’t envision ecology and evolution as an form of ideological indoctrination: that’s not why we went into the field.  While [?] of us are on the Left, we try to keep that out of our classes.” – J. Coyne

    Talking about the “Wertfreiheit” (“freedom from values”) of science, the great German sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920) wrote that…

    “What is really at issue is the intrinsically simple demand that the investigator and teacher should keep unconditionally separate the establishment of empirical facts (including the “value-oriented” conduct of the empirical individual whom he is investigating) and /his/ own practical evaluations, i.e., his evaluation of these facts as satisfactory or unsatisfactory (including among these facts evaluations made by the empirical persons who are the objects of investigation.) These two things are logically different and to deal with them as though they were the same represents a confusion of entirely heterogeneous problems.”

    (Weber, Max. “The Meaning of ‘Ethical Neutrality’ in Sociology and Economics.” [“Der Sinn der ‘Wertfreiheit’ der soziologischen und ökonomischen Wissenschaften”, 1917.] In /The Methodology of the Social Sciences/, translated and edited by Edward A. Shils and Henry A. Finch, 1-47. Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1949. p. 11)

  14. I think TREE might actually accept a criticism written by you. I think we need to try to criticize things that are clearly wrong. It might get in. It might be worth a try.

  15. While this may be the most outrageous incursion the author has ever seen, based upon his lifetime stats, I think I’m still voting for Lysenko as the Babe Ruth of outrage in this category.

  16. There’s no human group that hasn’t committed various injustices and atrocities against other groups. Black folk were kidnapping other blacks from other tribes and selling them on the West African coast to white slavers for well over a century. Other captives were sold to the Arabs. Natives in the Americas were raiding, enslaving, and murdering other Natives long before Columbus. Asians have been killing other Asians for thousands of years. And yes, white people have been plenty bad also. The point: acknowledge the negatives of the human condition, know that your ancestral lines are as tainted as any other, call it even, resolve to not do it again, and get on with the science or whatever the work you’re currently doing.

Leave a Reply