Scientists crying about cancellation, again


This “cancel culture” nonsense has gone on far too long — it’s nothing but an imaginary assault on the power and privilege of conservatives. It’s a label, nothing more, that idiots hang on any attempt to criticize them. You’re canceling me! How dare you! <swoon>. It’s all really tiresome.

Unsurprisingly, Jerry Coyne falls for the BS. He races to defend the notion of racist Noah Carl in the racist online rag the Genetic Literacy Project that Darwin might be next to be canceled.

Given the scientific and political luminaries who have fallen under the axe, it’s not beyond possibility that Charles Darwin himself may undergo a “reevaluation,” with people discovering what we already knew: Darwin, like many people of the mid-19th century, had some bigoted views of whites (i.e., Brits) as a superior race. Yet Darwin never did anything but write a bit about it in The Voyage of the Beagle and The Descent of Man, and was, to boot, an ardent abolitionist along with his wife’s family, the Wedgewoods. Josiah Wedgewood, Darwin’s grandfather (and also his wife Emma’s), designed this ceramic medallion that was popular among abolitionists as early as 1787. That may be enough to save Charles but, as we know, one misstep can cancel you for keeps. And Darwin made more than one—according to today’s lights.

I already posted about this nonsense from Carl, and like all his reactionary predecessors before him, Coyne fails to explain what it would mean to “cancel” Darwin. He’d lose his Twitter account? People would block him on Facebook? PragerU would make a video approving of him? Somebody would tear down a monument to Darwin? Big whoop. Don’t care. Charles Darwin, in particular, doesn’t give a damn — he’s dead.

Coyne continues:

It’s thus possible that Darwin could meet the fate of other scientists who unfortunately didn’t foresee the change in morality in the last century and a half, and his statues and other honorifics could come down.

That’s it? That’s all? A dead man might lose a few statues and honorifics? If you think Darwin’s legacy is in marble busts and buildings named after him, rather than his work and ideas, you are a very confused biologist. Evolution is secure. Darwin could be revealed to have been Jack the Ripper (couldn’t happen, since Darwin died before the ripper murders), and it wouldn’t affect the science.

As for this common, stupid argument that these poor canceled heroes “didn’t foresee the change in morality” — nonsense. Darwin wrote enough on the right side of morality that we should know that he had an intellectual understanding of the common humanity of all races and sexes, yet somehow at the same time he also wrote passages that are distinctly racist and misogynist. Recognizing that Darwin had flawed attitudes and cultural biases is, I guess, canceling him. Likewise, these unnamed scientists who met an unspecified doleful fate lived in an era when we could be conscious of the equality of races and and sexes, yet they chose to accept an immoral status quo. Darwin and Frederick Douglass were contemporaries, there is no excuse for thinking black people were inferiors in the 19th century. Darwin loved and respected his wife Emma, yet somehow he could hold with a Victorian view of women as lesser.

Acknowledging the flaws in famous people, though, is now “canceling” them. I call that “historical accuracy”, instead.

Coyne just has to chew on his foot some more:

In a piece before the one I’m mentioning today, sociologist Noah Carl (who’s had a bit of tumultuous history, having been canceled himself)…

“tumultuous history”? Are you fucking kidding me? He was sacked by Cambridge for unethical work and affiliation with outrageously flaming racists! “Tumultuous”. Yeah. And the KKK is sometimes a bit “rowdy”, and the Proud Boys are a bit “mischievous”. Here’s what the Cambridge review panel said about Carl.

The panel found that Dr Carl had put a body of work into the public domain that did not comply with established criteria for research ethics and integrity. In any event, it considered that the poor scholarship of this problematic body of Dr Carl’s work, among other things, meant that it fell outside any protection that might otherwise be claimed for academic freedom of speech.

Furthermore, the panel found that, in the course of pursuing this problematic work, Dr Carl had collaborated with a number of individuals who were known to hold extremist views. There was a serious risk that Dr Carl’s appointment could lead, directly or indirectly, to the College being used as a platform to promote views that could incite racial or religious hatred, and bring the College into disrepute. In addition, the panel also noted that the way in which Dr Carl has conducted himself with regard to his publications and the ideas he has expressed have had a detrimental effect on the atmosphere within the College with feelings of hurt, betrayal, anger and disbelief that the College could be associated with such views.

If you knew how cautious and mannered academic review comittees were, you’d know that was a university’s version of backing away in horror and vomiting in outrage.

Coyne, unfortunately, is capable of both downplaying the racism of Noah Carl while simultaneously exaggerating the significance of “cancellation”, whatever that is.

Carl concludes that if there’s a valid case for dethroning people like Hume, Galton, Fisher, and Linnaeus for their “retrograde” views on race and white superiority, then you can make an equally compelling case against Darwin.

Just yesterday, I lectured my cell biology class on the structure of DNA, and I also told them that Jim Watson was an asshole with a history of embarrassing racist and sexist statements. Yet I still talked about his work. That’s not going to change. We’ll be discussing Crick & Watson’s discovery for the next century or more. I’ve known that Galton and Fisher were racist jerks and supporters of eugenics for as long as I’ve been teaching, but their names are still in my genetics textbooks and I still bring up their work in my genetics classes…but I also don’t shy away from discussing their bad ideas.

Is that what canceling is? Then we should fully support more canceling. Even if regressive senior scientists are aghast that we dare to deplore racism and sexism in old dead white guys.

*You can anticipate the usual whines that SJWs call anyone racist at the drop of a hat. Alas for them, Noah Carl was fired for his racist views and the shoddy pseudoscience he used to defend them. The Genetic Literacy Project is a website set up by journalist Jon Entine with money from Monsanto to defend GMOs, a cause I’m sympathetic to, but you might want to read the Wikipedia article on Entine.

Entine has written three books on genetics and two on chemicals. Let Them Eat Precaution: How Politics is Undermining the Genetic Revolution examines the controversy over genetic modification in agriculture.[23]

Entine’s first book, Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We’re Afraid to Talk About It was inspired by the documentary on black athletes written with Brokaw in 1989. It received reviews ranging from mostly positive to highly negative in The New York Times. Physical anthropologist Jonathan Marks characterized the book as “make-believe genetics applied to naively conceptualized groups of people.”

In 2007, Entine published Abraham’s Children: Race, Identity and the DNA of the Chosen People which examined the shared ancestry of Jews, Christians and Muslims, and addressed the question “Who is a Jew?” as seen through the prism of DNA. In a review of this book, geneticist Harry Ostrer wrote that Entine’s “understanding of the genetics is limited and uncritical, but his broad, well-documented sweep of Jewish history will inform even the most knowledgeable of readers.”

Toss in the GLP’s tagline of “Science not Ideology” and I’m going to have to fire up a big signal flare on that outfit. The claim that they are ideology-free is one of the most common lies of the Right.

Comments

  1. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    mentioning the prominance of black people in sports, for some reason made me think of the oh so racist maovie “Whate Men Can’t Jump’ about a comically repressed white guy try to break into professional basketball. /sarcasm

    I can imagine them imagining cancelling Darwin by removing his name from every biology textbook discussing evolution. Instead of attributing the book he wrote on the Beagle, get more ambiguous, by saying “a book was written during the Beagle voyage to the Galapagos Islands” dropping the name of the book and the author completely. The fact he is mentioned by name in so many references makes it purely imaginary, which has never stopped these kinds of hypotheses before.

  2. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re 1:
    all hail Tpyo. She filled @1 withe lodes of them, as an exercise for the readers to correct.

  3. Snarki, child of Loki says

    Those CSW (Conservative Stupidity Warriors) just want to cancel the Darwin Award.
    IMO, more of them should try and earn it, though.

  4. fastfoodforthought says

    “Is that what canceling is? Then we should fully support more canceling. Even if regressive senior scientists are aghast that we dare to deplore racism and sexism in old dead white guys.”

    No, that’s just you virtue signaling, paying tribute to the party line. If you didn’t do that, you would run a risk of getting cancelled at some point in the future. In fact, I came here to this blog because I was thinking, “Gee, I wonder if PZ Myers has been cancelled yet?”.

    Indeed, dead people can’t really be cancelled, because their work has been done. All that can happen is for their work to be purged from the history books. We’re not quite at that point – yet.

    Real cancel culture is preventing people from doing their work because of some transgression they may have committed in the past or present, measured by the standards of the present or possible future.

    It’s likely that at some point, something you’ve said or done will be deemed unacceptable and you will be thrown under the bus. Your “old white cismale”-privilege will not protect you. “That’s only fair” is what you’ll say to yourself, as they lead you to the gallows.

  5. Erp says

    Either Coyne or his proofreader should be chastised for misspelling Wedgwood throughout the article. Also Josiah Wedgwood did not design the medallion (the article Coyne links to even states this) though it was probably his idea and he definitely approved, produced, paid for, and pushed it. The push against Darwin I’ve seen has come from creationists who think that getting rid of Darwin might get rid of his theory.
    Noah Carl was also dismissed by his college, St. Edmund’s, from a fellowship. He wasn’t dismissed by the university (he was never, I think, associated with the university except through the college). The Oxbridge system is unusual and the individual colleges have a great deal of independence from the university.

  6. Allison says

    Of course, if it turns out that someone’s entire body of work is bunk, then their name will probably entirely vanish from textbooks and reference works. Arguably, that would be “cancellation” in the sense that these people mean it, but I think that’s how science — and indeed, any academic discipline — is supposed to work. Keep what is true, discard what is false.

  7. says

    #5: So, in your universe, being cancelled involves “being thrown under a bus” and “led to the gallows”. Can you name anyone who has been hanged recently for not being woke enough?

  8. bcwebb says

    @10, eesh, should probably put that in the other order: cataloged, hung and exhibited; as the jim crow exhibit of works by the “unwoke” probably has photos of some real lynching victims who literally suffered that sequence and “cancellation” in stark contrast with the whining racists now.

  9. kome says

    “Cancelling” sure seems more and more to be “being held accountable for being a piece of shit”, which is the scariest thing in the world to a bunch of well-off white guys.

    But even then, that’s not what “cancel culture” started as, which is something we used to just call “boycotts.” The whole idea was “I am no longer going to financially contribute to a person or organization who espouses views I disagree with and I’m going to discourage others from doing so as well” and was accompanied by things like people saying they’ll no longer buy the albums of musicians who said stupidly prejudicial things. The transformation of “cancel culture” from “boycott” into a more general sense of “being held accountable” is a weird consequence of the conservatives and racists (but I repeat myself) trying to caricature what “cancel culture” is, in an attempt to discredit the ability of poor people to decide to stop giving their limited money to prejudiced rich idiots.

    That’s all this is. Largely powerless people banding together to say they aren’t going to sit idly by while powerful people continue to get away with, or be rewarded for, being hateful pieces of human garbage. Powerful people can’t stand the thought of it. Good.

  10. microraptor says

    Has Coyne gotten desperate enough to own the libs that he’s promoted antisemitism yet?

  11. Rob Grigjanis says

    fastfoodforthought @5: In the US especially, you’ve had a ‘cancel culture’ for centuries.

    Unarmed black people being killed. Oops, lives cancelled.
    Non-white people incarcerated at far higher rates than whites, for the same crimes. Oops, lives damaged irreparably.
    Decent health care and education unavailable to millions. Oops, lives and opportunities cancelled.

    I could go on, but you get the point. You’ve been shoving people under a never-ending stream of buses for ages. But some ignorant douche gets called out for being an ignorant douche? Oh, the outrage! Where’s my fainting couch and smelling salts?

    Let me guess – pointing out the inconvenient but fucking obvious truths is ‘virtue signalling’. Fuck off you snivelling little twerp.

  12. fastfoodforthought says

    @9

    In my universe, we understand what a “figure of speech” is. We also recognize when somebody is being intellectually dishonest by taking it literally.

  13. fastfoodforthought says

    @15

    “Let me guess – pointing out the inconvenient but fucking obvious truths is ‘virtue signalling’.”

    Obvious things don’t need to be pointed out, because they are obvious. There must therefore exist some other, more selfish, motivation for doing so. Ask yourself, are you taking any real risk for pointing out any of these obvious things, or are you perhaps even averting such risk? If it’s the latter, you may well be virtue signalling.

    “Fuck off you snivelling little twerp.”

    Watch out, dear colleague, heightism may soon be added to the list of forbidden -isms.

  14. says

    @fastfoodforthought 17
    And some of us recognise when others are just politically pissing on fences when they don’t replace the non-literalism with the real world version. Indeed they often pointlessly point out said non-literality instead of coughing up something useful.

  15. fastfoodforthought says

    @19

    “And some of us recognise when others are just politically pissing on fences when they don’t replace the non-literalism with the real world version.”

    It’s quite amusing to see you berating me for using a figure of speech by using a figure of speech. To my defense, I would’ve pissed somewhere else, but it was fences all the way down.

  16. says

    @fastfoodforthought 20
    I see you are going to continue to be a failure of advocacy.

    I’m berating you for failing to turning your abstract figure of speech into a concrete example that can be independently appreciated. But if you want to continue your political game of focusing of means of getting you to back your shit up instead of going on to back your shit up I’m happy to keep pointing out your lack of metaphorical executions.

  17. Rob Grigjanis says

    @18:

    Obvious things don’t need to be pointed out

    To people whose ideological blinkers drastically reduce field of vision, they often do need to be pointed out.

  18. wzrd1 says

    One must question the wisdom of pissing on fences that aren’t certain to not be electrified.

  19. Mobius says

    There are things I like about Coyne’s blog. Reader’s Wildlife Photos. The Hili dialogue.

    But his politics verge on the conservative and I avoid any such article, which he unfortunately has quite a few of. But it is his blog and he can express his opinions. If it was just his opinions, without the science, photos and humorous Hili sections, I would avoid the blog completely.

  20. says

    I should have banned fastfoodforthought the instant he trotted out that “virtue signalling” bullshit. Now corrected. BANNED.

  21. lakitha tolbert says

    #12,
    Thank you for saying this.
    Racism, homophobia, and misogyny have always been wrong. This was most especially recognized by those to whom it was happening! “Canceling”, often went by tricky terms, like lynching, rape, genocide, massacre…

  22. jack lecou says

    It’s likely that at some point, something you’ve said or done will be deemed unacceptable and you will be thrown under the bus. Your “old white cismale”-privilege will not protect you. “That’s only fair” is what you’ll say to yourself, as they lead you to the gallows.

    Isn’t that exactly how it should work though? You’re trying to put a spin on it, and you seem to think we’re supposed to find this scenario appalling, but this big threat you’re describing — the concept of facing censure for doing something unacceptable — is pretty much common sense in any other context.

    That is, normally, if I do something “unacceptable” (drive on the wrong side of the road, cheat on my taxes, show up late for work, go to dinner with friends and skip out on my share of the bill, etc., etc.) then I should probably expect to face some kind of consequence. Something society does to get me to stop or go away (fines, jail, firing, my friends stop hanging out with me).

    Right? The alternative is literally that doing something unacceptable would have no censure or consequence — social, legal, professional or otherwise. Which would be, by definition, pretty problematic, I think.

    And of course I hope you don’t really mean to imply that being an “old white cismale” should be protection against any of that, right? Some kind of get out of jail free card? If it’s wrong to drive on the wrong side of the road or stick your friends with a big dinner bill, it’s wrong for everyone.

    Good. I’m glad we all agree.

    But that leaves only one possible point of disagreement. Not whether bad actions should have just consequences, in general — of course they should. But only which actions should be considered unacceptable, and what degree of censure, if any, a violation merits.

    Given the context, this seems to imply that in your view, saying racist things should be acceptable, or at least should not incur even the rather mild censure of people wanting to avoid someone or not wanting to listen to their opinions anymore (I guess we should be forced to?). Or, perhaps, in your view engaging in unethical research and damaging a university learning environment ought to be considered acceptable behavior for a professor, and universities shouldn’t be allowed to discipline anyone who does those things.

    And, well, you’re entitled to one or both of those opinions, but I wouldn’t expect anyone else to agree or pay my ramblings much heed if I were in your shoes.

  23. unclefrogy says

    there seems to me to be at least 2 kinds of negative reactions to what is being labeled “canceling” and “cancel culture”. There are those that defend what are judged negative and false views because they do not think those views are wrong and as in this reaction is an kind of exaggeration trying to make any criticism false and hypocritical.
    the other is a reaction to having their “heroes” shown to have “feet of clay” and with actual personal flaws and weaknesses. They want their heroes and leaders to be the flawless icons, idolized as perfection. They want everything that they like to be the superlative, they want their gods to be real their view of reality to be the true one. Anything that points out the limitations of our perception or our tentative grasp of reality to be extremely disruptive.
    They are full of shit!
    uncle frogy

  24. says

    When someone like Coyne identifies this much with the knuckledraggers, I have to wonder what kind of skeletons he’s protecting. I’m not interested in finding out, but that’s the first thing one thinks of. Like when Dave Chappelle defended the orange’s “locker room talk.” The mind goes there.

  25. microraptor says

    @31: It’s always possible that something like that is going on, but he’s been really consistent in how much he detests any viewpoints that aren’t male, straight, or white. I think he’s just so invested in hating on SJWs, safe spaces, and Islam that he’s willing to back anyone who speaks out against them.

  26. christoph says

    @robertbaden, # 34: The Dixie Chicks did make a comeback. Looks like the jingoistic hate didn’t last forever.

  27. Marissa van Eck says

    “Cancel culture” is just the marketplace of ideas deciding they don’t like what these twits are selling. Boo-stupid-hood. MUH FREEZE PEACH does not include a guaranteed captive audience, nor the right to be free from ridicule.

    What the fuck is it with libertarians constantly failing to apply their own standards to themselves?

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