I knew this was coming; in fact, I was interviewed several times for this article about misconduct by Lawrence Krauss. I had to tell the journalist that at most I’d gotten some second-hand echoes from the whisper network, but that I knew nothing directly about any accusations against him. But then, I’m a guy — I wasn’t at risk for being groped, so no one was going to pull me aside and warn me. Also, as a guy who was hanging out with Krauss now and then, there was no way to trust me not to spread the word to the accused…and whoa, but a lot of women were terrified of being alone with him, and of the effect he could have on their career.
Go read their stories. I believe them.
It’s a shame, too, because in theory, he’s an ally. He just seems to fall short in practice.
But Krauss says his movement is getting more diverse, not less. He is politically liberal, decrying sexism, racism, and “the fear of people who are different,” and is a vocal critic of Donald Trump. And yet, he’s not always politically correct, whether saying that religion drives xenophobia, dismissing burka-clad Muslims as “women in bags,” announcing that a statue looks like “Jesus on the toilet,” or tweeting articles arguing that #MeToo has gone too far.
And in his private life, according to a number of women in his orbit, Krauss exhibits some of the sexist behavior that he denounces in public. Now that these accusations are coming out in the open, some women have doubts that the skeptics will acknowledge the body of evidence about his behavior, and confront their own preconceived beliefs.
Once again, skeptics are afflicted with a curious blindness. There’s a psychology study waiting to happen here.
“Skeptics and atheists like to think they are above human foibles like celebrity worship,” Rebecca Watson, a prominent feminist skeptic, told BuzzFeed News. “In a way, that makes them particularly susceptible to being abused by their heroes. I think we see that over and over again.”
Women at skeptics meetings would often warn each other to avoid Krauss, she added, but conference organizers seemed reluctant to act. “He was a popular speaker,” Watson said. “None of them were interested in doing anything about what was happening.”
Krauss hasn’t done himself any favors, either.
But Krauss’s reputation took a hit in April 2011, after he publicly defended Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy financier who was convicted of soliciting prostitution from an underage girl and spent 13 months in a Florida jail.
Epstein was one of the Origins Project’s major donors. But Krauss told the Daily Beast his support of the financier was based purely on the facts: “As a scientist I always judge things on empirical evidence and he always has women ages 19 to 23 around him, but I’ve never seen anything else, so as a scientist, my presumption is that whatever the problems were I would believe him over other people.”
Oh, well, the cynic in me knows exactly how all this will turn out. Krauss will face no consequences, his popularity in the skeptic/atheist movement will be undimmed, and all the women who spoke out in that article will face an increase in the torrent of abuse they already get. It took a lot of courage for them to go on record, for which I know they will be punished.