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.
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.
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.