The ‘Problematic’ E.O. Wilson
I’ve been away from the keys for much of the day, and am just now getting to the entirely justified freak-out over this deplorably stupid article Scientific American published about the great entomologist E.O. Wilson, who died the day after Christmas. The magazine utterly beclowns itself with wokeness. The author is Monica McLemore, an associate professor of nursing at University of California, San Francisco, who takes it upon herself to judge negatively the legacy of one of the greatest scientists of our time, before he may even have been buried. What’s wrong with him? Well, what do you think? Excerpts:
With the death of biologist E. O. Wilson on Sunday, I find myself again reflecting on the complicated legacies of scientists whose works are built on racist ideas and how these ideas came to define our understanding of the world.
After a long clinical career as a registered nurse, I became a laboratory-trained scientist as researchers mapped the first draft of the human genome. It was during this time that I intimately familiarized myself with Wilson’s work and his dangerous ideas on what factors influence human behavior.
His influential text Sociobiology: The New Synthesis contributed to the false dichotomy of nature versus nurture and spawned an entire field of behavioral psychology grounded in the notion that differences among humans could be explained by genetics, inheritance and other biological mechanisms. Finding out that Wilson thought this way was a huge disappointment, because I had enjoyed his novel Anthill, which was published much later and written for the public.
Wilson was hardly alone in his problematic beliefs. His predecessors—mathematician Karl Pearson, anthropologist Francis Galton, Charles Darwin, Gregor Mendel and others—also published works and spoke of theories fraught with racist ideas about distributions of health and illness in populations without any attention to the context in which these distributions occur.
Oh my. Get this:
Second, the application of the scientific method matters: what works for ants and other nonhuman species is not always relevant for health and/or human outcomes. For example, the associations of Black people with poor health outcomes, economic disadvantage and reduced life expectancy can be explained by structural racism, yet Blackness or Black culture is frequently cited as the driver of those health disparities. Ant culture is hierarchal and matriarchal, based on human understandings of gender. And the descriptions and importance of ant societies existing as colonies is a component of Wilson’s work that should have been critiqued. Context matters.
Bad Wilson! His scientific ideas get in the way of the moralistic political crusade to blame whitey for every bad thing!
McLemore wants scientists to hire Grievance Studies majors and allies from related fields to vet scientific research to keep Bad Thoughts from being aired in public:
First, truth and reconciliation are necessary in the scientific record, including attention to citational practices when using or reporting on problematic work. This approach includes thinking critically about where and when to include historically problematic work and the context necessary for readers to understand the limitations of the ideas embedded in it. This will require commitments from journal editors, peer reviewers and the scientific community to invest in retrofitting existing publications with this expertise. They can do so by employing humanities scholars, journalists and other science communicators with the appropriate expertise to evaluate health and life sciences manuscripts submitted for publication.
How does garbage like this get approved at a publication like Scientific American? Wokeness demands the death of clear, rigorous thinking. Prof. McLemore also questions what she calls “white empiricism”; I’m not sure what the connection is there between that and what the Nazis denounced as “Jewish science,” but I guarantee you that no one at woke Scientific American has thought of it — even though they once published an article explaining how pro-Nazi German physicists led the crusade against “Jewish science.” Now Scientific American appears to be leading the crusade against “white science,” and congratulating themselves for their progressive virtue.
UPDATE: In related news that I just saw, the State of New York is running low on monoclonal antibodies, and has decided that white people need to go to the back of the line because of “systemic” racism. Seriously! From the official press release:
The woke are dividing us by race, even when it comes to potentially life-saving treatment. Don’t you see what they’re doing? They’re trying to put us at each other’s throats!