Look for the helpers: Hsu has some peculiar friends

Yesterday, I told you that Stephen Hsu had gotten a bunch of signatures supporting his work, the effect of which was rather blunted by the fact that a lot of them were from racists. You’d think such a smart guy would have figured out that if you’re trying to argue that you aren’t an asshole, getting testimonials from other assholes doesn’t help. Well, now he’s got another major endorsement: Quillette and Claire Lehmann are backing him 100%. Oy. I guess he’s having his friends help dig his grave.

Lehmann’s defense is a real piece of work. She compares Hsu to Vavilov, and damns one person who criticizes him as…a democratic socialist.

Wow. So much wrong.

  • Vavilov was the victim of a Stalinist purge. No one is planning to send Hsu to a gulag.
  • Vavilov was a respected early Mendelian who was doing research within a theoretical framework that was well-respected in the world outside the USSR. Hsu is not a geneticist, he’s a loon promoting discredited ideas outside his expertise.
  • Lysenko was a political creature who exploited the wishful thinking of an ideology to claim facts that were not in evidence, or that had been disproven. That’s Hsu, too. He knows nothing of genetics, but he’s making absurd claims to prop up support for eugenics.
  • Lehmann caricatures ideas about genetics and the environment. Lysenko was a horrible fraud, therefore acknowledging any contribution of environment to the expression of genes makes you a modern Lysenko. Being a pure Mendelian who believes genes are fixed and invariant in their effects makes you a noble martyr to truth. It’s all bullshit.
  • Hsu is not being targeted “for his research and writing”. I haven’t seen anyone even mention his research in theoretical physics as a problem. It’s his dilettantish dabbling in fields outside his experience and playing on his authority in physics to justify his claims about biology that are a problem.
  • Hsu is not being misrepresented as a racist and sexist. He advocates for racism and sexism, he has a following of racist, sexist friends, and he publicly endorses racist, sexist ideas. His version of condemnation is to say, ‘I am not a racist, but hey, how about them differences in IQ scores?’
  • Hsu is not at risk of losing his livelihood. He may be asked to resign his title as Vice President for Research and Innovation (he may lose a bit of salary for that, but also gets out of some administrative duties). He’ll still get paid as a high-ranking professor, not to mention that he has made millions founding and selling a couple of Silicon Valley companies. He’s not at the slightest risk of starving to death in a prison camp.
  • I’m with Kevin Bird. Seeing the oppressive capitalist foundations of American wealth inequality getting shaken up is a good start. It’s not quite the change we saw with the fall of the Berlin Wall, though — we’re going to need to see Wall Street dethroned from its power and influence on government to be comparable.
  • Having the craniometry cabal at Quillette backing him is not evidence that he’s not a racist. Quite the contrary.

I’m hoping that the activists in Michigan can just point to the dishonest support of Quillette as confirmation that Hsu is a goddamned racist who has no right to be leading anything at MSU.


  1. Matt G says

    Sounds like Quillette would have been right at home in growing up in Soviet Russia, ironically.

  2. raven says

    It’s already been noted.
    My reaction was that Steven Hsu is not another Vavilov.
    He is another Lysenko.

    Steven Hsu is also not another Galileo.
    (The IDW hasn’t claimed that yet but they will.)
    He is another Flat Earther or other random crackpot.

  3. anthrosciguy says

    It seems the first step for any pseudoscientist is to engage in projection.

  4. says

    It discredits Hsu which in turn discredits Cummings more which in turn discredits Hsu more which in turn discredits Cummings more which…..

  5. Matt G says

    Cummings, what a train wreck of a human being. The company you keep and all that…. IQ tests, meanwhile, are a great predictor of how well people will score on IQ tests.

  6. says

    @#6, KG:

    If you’ve been following the news from the UK for the last couple of months, then you know that this definitely disgraces Hsu more. The reversal would be “an academic from Oxford who most people have never actually heard of, who keeps pushing some unsupported and terrible views in a discipline outside his own, and who has accrued some administrative power, turns out to be a collaborator with Jared Kushner, which one is worse?”

  7. says

    Quillette rushing to defend Hsu is enough to make me doubt that Hsu really exists. How sure are we that such an absurd figure is actually real, and not another “Archie Carter” from Chicago?

    I kid, I kid.

    But seriously, I hope that Quillette did their due diligence and checked Hsu’s skull shape before coming to his aid.

  8. jrkrideau says

    @ 3 Ken MacLeod
    And Wiki says that Nicholai Ivanovich Vavilov died in Saratov which is only, maybe, 1,500km from Leningrad/St Petersburg. If he was in the GULAG what was he doing starving in a vault in Leningrad? I am trusting this Quillette story more and more.