Who’s afraid of the big bad Woke Mob? Not me.

For my entire career, I’ve just casually taught the work of Ronald Fisher — his ideas on genetics and evolution are fundamental to population genetics and statistics, and he was one of the biggest names to shape the melding of Darwinian evolution with Mendelian genetics. You can’t teach the subjects I do without relying on Fisher! Unfortunately, that’s got to change, because he has been “canceled”. Woke Mobs have dug up his corpse and thrown it in the Thames, great bonfires have roared up around the land to consume copies of The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection, the New Puritans have threatened me with excommunication if I even mention chi-square or statistical genetics, and the students are collecting kindling to pile around the stakes on the mall for any modern professor who mentions his name…

Oh, wait, none of that is true? What does it even mean to be “canceled”, then? And what outrageous acts are the Woke Mobs committing to inspire dread?

It seems that “cancellation” means that people are talking about the whole of his career, including some very ugly bits, and the “Woke Mobs” were politely circulating petitions to have a stained glass window honoring Ronald Fisher removed from his Cambridge college. They’re also removing his name from a few awards.

That’s it. Seems reasonable and appropriate to me, because Fisher held some truly awful views. Eric Michael Johnson has written a balanced assessment of his ideas, which sounds like the kind of thing a savage Woke Barbarian would do, and he agrees that his terrible, terrible ideas ought to be balanced with his very good ideas, which seems to be what people are calling “cancellation”.

I admit, I started this article with some hyperbole, but hyperbole seems to be the order of the day. Johnson writes,

While Black Lives Matter protests raged and confederate statues were toppled across the United States following the killing of George Floyd, the quiet removal of a stained-glass window at Cambridge University closed one chapter in the history of scientific racism. On June 26, 2020, a commemorative window in honor of the statistician, geneticist, and evolutionary biologist Ronald Aylmer Fisher was targeted for removal from Gonville and Caius College where he had lived during his time at Cambridge. A student petition that had received more than 1,400 signatures objected to Fisher’s “endorsements of colonialism, white supremacy and eugenics.” Following a review, the College Council decided to support the students with a statement acknowledging Fisher’s fundamental contributions to statistics and genetics but concluded that honoring him would not constitute a welcoming environment given that he was “a prominent proponent of eugenics, both in his scientific work and his public pronouncements throughout his career.” Other organizations, such as the Society for the Study of Evolution and the American Statistical Association, have removed Fisher’s name from prestigious awards. Fisher would now join the dubious company of men such as James Watson, Francis Galton, or J. Marion Sims, scientists who contributed substantially to their fields but whose views on race resulted in their honors being removed by the very institutions that had previously celebrated them.

This decision was soon condemned as part of the latest trend in “cancel culture” that followed in the wake of the #MeToo movement toppling other powerful men. According to Fisher’s former student, and current Cambridge Professor of Biometry, A.W.F. Edwards, “a panicking Cambridge institution obliterated the memory of one of its most famous sons” and “joined the cacophony of the echo chamber ‘eugenics and race, eugenics and race.’” University of Chicago evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne blamed the decision on “the spread of wokeness” and argued that you can still honor the good a historical figure accomplished if it outweighed the bad. “Contrary to the statements of those who have canceled Fisher, though, he wasn’t a racist eugenist, although he did think that there were behavioral and intelligence differences between human groups.” Finally, economist and former Reagan Administration official, Paul Craig Roberts, condemned Cambridge University for caving to “ignorant BLM thugs” and declared that we are now “witnessing the surrender of Western Civilization to barbarians.”

My first thought was to wonder how far gone Coyne has become — I haven’t been interested in reading his blog in ages because he was already incredibly regressive, and his active commentariat mainly seems to be rat-droppings from the slymepit. He couldn’t be that ridiculous, could he? And yes, he is. That quote was an understatement. He’s one of those weird conservative wackaloons who rages about “cancel culture” and “wokeness”. I had to look up that article where the quote came from, and hoo boy, he is swimming in the right-wing Kool-Aid. It’s like he almost gets it, though.

The authors make no attempt to gloss over Fisher’s distasteful and odious eugenics views, but do clarify what he favored. These included a form of positive eugenics, promoting the intermarriage of accomplished (high IQ) people, as well as negative eugenics: sterilization of the “feeble minded.” The latter was, however, always seen by Fisher as a voluntary measure, never forced. While one may ask how someone who is mentally deficient can give informed consent, Fisher favored “consent” of a parent or guardian (and concurrence of two physicians) before sterilization—if the patients themselves weren’t competent. But is that really “consent”? Negative eugenics on the population kind (not the selective abortion of fetuses carrying fatal disease, which people do every day) is something that’s seen today as immoral.

You know, I have no patience for people who excuse positive eugenics. We’ve been practicing positive eugenics in this country for a long, long time. Make sure all the white counties and suburbs have plenty of voting machines; how can you complain about that? Provide plenty of money for schools in white districts, no problem. Make it easier for good white folk to take out home loans and build equity. Isn’t that a positive thing we can do? Favor legacy admissions to universities — they’re not against minorities, they just have to reward tradition. Policies in this country are easy to phrase as positives for one group of people, and act as if they aren’t intentionally negative against others. Coyne rightly points out that any kind of negative eugenics can’t hide behind a claim of consent, but positive eugenics has similar problems.

I also agree that Fisher’s views about eugenics were distasteful and odious, but why are we willing to gloss over them? Does anyone want to work at a university that honors a distasteful and odious person with prominent displays, or receive an award named after a distasteful and odious person? I would think it a good idea to actually recognize the harm that a person did in their life! And maybe not inflict it further on those he harmed.

But now the arguments get peculiar.

Contrary to the statements of those who have canceled Fisher, though, he wasn’t a racist eugenist, although he did think that there were behavioral and intelligence differences between human groups, which is likely to be true on average but is a taboo topic—and irrelevant for reforming society. Fisher’s eugenics was largely based on intelligence and class, not race. Fisher was also clueless about the Nazis, though there is no evidence that he or his work contributed to the Nazi eugenics program.

In fact, none of Fisher’s recommendations or views were ever adopted by his own government, which repeatedly rejected his recommendations for positive and negative eugenics. Nor were they taken up in America, where they did practice negative eugenics, sterilizing people without their consent. But American eugenics was largely promoted by American scientists.

Oh, he wasn’t a racist, thank god, he just thought there were intelligence differences between unspecified groups, and he wanted to oppress poor people instead. That makes him better?

Between 1929 and 1934 the Eugenics Education Society of London began campaigning for a law that would permit sterilization of “mental defectives.” Fisher was an active board member of the Society and contributed scientific advice as well as providing them with a four-page pamphlet for use by the Committee for Legalizing Sterilization entitled “The Elimination of Mental Defect” in 1930. In it, Fisher argued that mating was primarily controlled by social class “and defectives undoubtedly gravitate to the lowest social stratum.” He concluded by recommending that, “the segregation or sterilization of the feeble-minded would lead to substantial immediate progress in the elimination of the defect.”

On the other hand, as is typical, Fisher could be a bit loose with his definitions and slip easily into racist talk.

It is this context that provides the backdrop for what followed during and after World War II. For example, on May 11, 1943, with the British First Army still bogged down in Tunisia and the Americans focused on island hopping in the South Pacific, there did not seem to be any end to the war in sight. In his pessimism, Fisher wrote to his Cambridge classmate, C.S. Stock, that eugenics may explain Germany’s wartime stamina. “I imagine their racial programme and their eugenic measures on the Home Front have been eminently successful in a way that is most difficult to deal with, namely that they have been successful with the best type of German.” This could pose a serious problem if England did not rise to meet their eugenic challenge, something that Fisher had learned he could not count on his countrymen to take seriously.

“[I]f we could put our own house in order racially, we should have little to fear from any attempt to imitate our success, but that if we don’t, we shall have a succession of alien demagogues following in the footsteps of Mussolini and Hitler, and building on the important and exciting truth that the English-speaking peoples are far advanced in decadence. Why should we expect anything better?”

He doesn’t sound particularly clueless about the Nazis, either.

Even after the war, once the atrocities of the concentration camps and systematic murder of “defectives” had been exposed in the Nuremberg trials, Fisher wrote a testimonial in favor of the Nazi eugenicist Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer (who supervised Josef Mengele at Auschwitz). Fisher explained that von Verschuer’s reputation “stood exceedingly high among human geneticists” prior to the rise of Adolf Hitler and that it was merely “his misfortune rather than his fault that racial theory was a part of Nazi ideology.”

“In spite of their prejudices I have no doubt also that the Party sincerely wished to benefit the German racial stock, especially by the elimination of manifest defectives, such as those deficient mentally, and I do not doubt that von Verschuer gave, as I would have done, his support to such a movement.”

But wait! You knew this had to be coming: Coyne makes the “he was a man of his time” argument.

On both counts, then, I don’t think it’s fair for scientific societies or Cambridge University to demote Fisher, cancel prizes named after him, and so on. He held views that were common in his time (and were adhered to by liberal geneticists like A. H. Sturtevant and H. J. Muller), and his views, now seen properly as bigoted and odious, were never translated into action.

Curious. Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict, and Ashley Montagu also lived at this time, and didn’t seem to take it for granted that eugenics was a reasonable proposal. Frederick Douglass was before his time, doesn’t he count? Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin were younger contemporaries, shall we ignore the oppressed and only listen to the opinions of the privileged, liberal geneticists? It’s remarkable how somehow, the voices of those we agree with and that share our biases are the ones we listen to and treat as if they are the only ones speaking.

As for the claim that Fisher’s views were never translated into action, jesus. Fisher wasn’t alone, but was part of a deplorable generation of eugenicists in the pre-WWII era. They laid the foundation for the scientific justification for the Holocaust; he wasn’t loading people into cattle cars, but the Nazis who did could find solace in the idea that “men of his time” were writing scientific papers advocating their general policy. That Francis Galton, Charles Davenport, and Henry Fairfield Osborn were also promoting this hateful nonsense does not mean we can look the other way when RA Fisher did it.

Coyne seems to think that argument is so strong, he repeated it twice. Other people in America pushed eugenics, so we can’t hold an Englishmen accountable, and besides, he was such a crackpot on this issue that no government followed through on his claim. Except, well, Nazi Germany, and there he just wrote excuses for Mengele’s supervisor and said he’d have done the same thing, but we’ll just sweep that one under the rug. Oh, and Winston Churchill in England, who thought eugenics was a splendid idea.

I’m still not entirely clear on what this “canceling” thing that has him all worked up is about. Sure, I’ll go ahead and “cancel” Ronald Fisher without a qualm. I’ll still mention his name in class, I’ll still cite his work, I’ve still got the fundamental concepts he pioneered embedded in my brain, where they will stay, but I’ll also consider it inappropriate to give out a ‘Ronald Fisher Award’ to the kinds of diverse students who Fisher himself would have wanted to deny acknowledgment, and I don’t think we should have academic memorials to him that don’t also discuss his deep flaws. So yeah, I’ve canceled him, I guess, in the same way “Cancel Culture” and vicious “Wokeists” have been doing all along, by providing accurate, unfiltered information about the person.

While I’m at it, I might as well cancel Jerry Coyne, too. I’m still keeping a copy of his Speciation book on my shelf, though, even if it does mean that someday a raging mob of woke Leftists dig up my corpse and throw it in the Pomme de Terre river.


  1. says

    you can still honor the good a historical figure accomplished if it outweighed the bad

    And I’m sure Coyne has an objective and reliable way to measure both “good” and “bad”. Commonly known as “a white cis dude said so”.
    Oh, but wait, there wasn’t actually any bad to start with! The poor man had some good ideas about “positive eugenics”, and if he fervently supported “negative eugenics” even after the horrors of Auschwitz became widely known, well, who can blame him? man of his time, you know?

  2. BACONSQAUDgaming says

    I’m of the opinion that if you are honoring someone (eg. statue, name of award, naming a school, etc.) for something they did, then the only reason to revoke the honor is if what they did for that honor is no longer acceptable/relevant (eg. Confederate statues, for founding a colony violently, etc.). No one is perfect, so bringing in other aspects of their life is not relevant to the honor. You can find people who are offended by virtually anything, so that is not a good enough reason to revoke an honor for reasons that aren’t related to why they were honored.
    A nearby school is named after Frederick Banting, for his insulin discovery, and saving thousands of lives. Should it be renamed because he abused animals in doing so? Is the fact that the vast majority of the people who visit/attend the school are unaware of that, or don’t care if they do?
    Mendeleev is honored in many places for the periodic table. Should those honors be revoked because he was a bigamist?
    Eisenhower is honored for the Interstates. Should those honors be revoked because he wasn’t a vegetarian?
    You are really just whitewashing history when you do this sort of thing, instead of using it as a kind of time machine to understand what people were like in those times.

  3. says

    So you have a mechanism for teasing apart the components of a person’s life? Do you have a well-defined boundary? How much shit will you tolerate in the soup before you decide that maybe you’d rather not eat it after all?

  4. pilgham says

    “successful with the best type of German”

    Somehow the phrase made me think of Beethoven.

  5. consciousness razor says

    On both counts, then, I don’t think it’s fair for scientific societies or Cambridge University to demote Fisher, cancel prizes named after him, and so on.

    He thinks what? It’s about “fairness”? Will Fisher miss out on some meaningful opportunities now or something like that? And what does it mean to “demote” a person who’s been dead since 1962? I mean, is anyone planning to dig an even deeper hole in the ground for him?

    Anyway, I think what’s really going on here is that, enfeebled as they are, such things naturally gravitate to the lowest stratum. This is just science … you know, sort of like Aristotelian physics I guess. But whatever. It sounds like all they’re doing is segregating and sterilizing the stock of awards, prizes, etc., which leads to substantial immediate progress by elimination of the defect. Except … we’re not talking about human beings.

  6. garnetstar says

    “Behavioral differences” among “groups”, aka “races”, actually exist, do they? Just what does that mean, and let’s see the data on that, please!

    The truth is actually the reverse: the identical behaviors in differen’t “groups” have different consequences. That is what we see and can quantify. For example, Black people’s ordinary everyday behaviors are much more likely end up getting them murdered by any white person who feels like it, than white people’s identical ordinary behaviors.

    Coyne has really gone off the deep end into the evils of “wokeness”, by which he means, any sort of advance in social equality, of any kind, for anyone. It’s all he writes about now, seems obsessive. If the the civil rights movement was occuring now, and black people were trying to achieve the right to vote and to not be lynched, he’d decry that as wokeness.

    He’s even recently changed the description of his blog to “biology and politics”. I only scroll through it to look at the wildlife photos, but can’t help noticing the titles of some of his posts.

  7. garnetstar says

    @2, I have to disagree. There is a difference between continuing to use or teach someone’s achievments, and honoring them. If their bad actions or opinions, which all people do in their lives, include ones that have been blatantly immoral and cost human lives, there is no need to single them out for honor. The totality of their actions, good and bad, should be considered. There’s a difference between bigamy (whose life did that cost?) and eugenics and racism. Even animal suffering: there may have been no other option to make that discovery. If the person was a gratutiously vicious torturer, making animals suffer, for fun, way beyond the needs of the research, I would think twice, perhaps.

    But, opinions and actions that cost other peoples’ blood, are not in the same category as the bad actions that most everyone gets up to.

  8. bcw bcw says

    Since the woke mobs will be throwing your corpse in the Pomme de Terre River does that mean they’ll be cutting your head off with a Ronco Slice-O-Matic and turning you into perfect Julienne fries first?

  9. kome says

    Weird how so many white guys are more concerned about the reputation of dead white men than the lives of black people, women, LGBTQ people, etc. who are alive right now at this very moment.

  10. Jazzlet says

    The removal of the window honouring Fisher is exactly the kind of thing that the Education Secretary meant when he said that universities permiting “cancel culture” would have their funding adjusted. Being a Cambridge College that probably won’t affect them that much, but it shouldn’t affect the funding of any university that makes a similar decision.

  11. flex says

    I probably shouldn’t do this but…

    @2, BACONSQAUDgaming

    You are really just whitewashing history when you do this sort of thing,….

    No. You’ve got it backwards. You whitewash history when you ignore the whole person and only concentrate on the good things they accomplished.

    Fisher was a human being, and I’ll even grant he was a man of his time. The ideas he espoused, the ideals he actively promote and worked for, are abhorrent to educated people today. Or at least the should be, because there are people who haven’t learned that eugenic programs always separates humanity into arbitrary divisions of “better” or “lesser”, and the lesser get killed.

    But Fisher does not care about any award, he doesn’t care about prizes being named for him. Fisher is dead. What a prize or awards means is that the person being named was someone who the group giving the award finds honorable, worthy of emulation. Someone whom the recipient of the award or prize can feel that they would have earned the respect of the person named in the award. A recipient of a R.A. Fisher award today may well belong to a group whom Fisher would have recommended sterilizing. We know that Fisher would not respect certain classes of people, because he said so. To give such an award to someone whom Fisher would have recommended for sterilization is an insult. It is an insult regardless of his other work.

    No one is suggesting that Fisher be left out of the history books. No one is even saying that every time you discuss the work of R.A. Fisher you must bring up his obsession with eugenics. Fisher’s work on populations and statistics can be cited, shown to student’s, mentioned in textbooks, all without bringing up eugenics. But hiding his eugenics beliefs, or honoring his name by using it as a prize or award, is insulting to the recipient and whitewashing history.

  12. says

    Fisher explained that von Verschuer’s reputation “stood exceedingly high among human geneticists” prior to the rise of Adolf Hitler and that it was merely “his misfortune rather than his fault that racial theory was a part of Nazi ideology.”

    Setting aside the last part of this with great effort…it’s striking how the arguments being made now on Fisher’s behalf so closely resemble those he made then on behalf of a literal Nazi. Would these people support a von Verschuer genetics prize at, say, the University of Münster?

  13. hemidactylus says

    Still Coyne related:
    Coyne has recently taken issue with Hemant Mehta’s critical assessment of Dawkins’ (cringe) tweet comparing Rachel Dolezal’s infamous “transracialism” to how trans people identify:


    “In 2015, Rachel Dolezal, a white chapter president of NAACP, was vilified for identifying as Black. Some men choose to identify as women, and some women choose to identify as men. You will be vilified if you deny that they literally are what they identify as.


    Mehta’s critical response:

    And Coyne’s obtuse response to Mehta’s “wokeish overreaction” where Coyne uses “transsexual” a lot and manages to get an obligatory dig in at Critical Race Theory (his obsession):

    Hope “woke” Mehta stands pat and either ignores Coyne or tells him to STFU.

  14. snarkrates says

    News flash: Ronald Fisher is still dead! I really don’t think he cares if he’s cancelled. Fisher was, famously, an asshole. He managed to feud with all the other statisticians of his day except George Box–who miraculously managed to work with both Fisher and both Pearson pere e fils.

    He was, nonetheless a brilliant statistician. We will continue to use the techniques he developed regardless of whether we think he was a swell guy. That’s as much monument as a scientist needs.

    To the woke mobs of tomorrow: Please fucking cancel me. I’ll be really fucking disappointed if society hasn’t progressed enough that my views are considered acceptable in every respect. On the of chance I have developed scientific techniques that are still worth using, please feel free to do that. Although, I’d be kind of disappointed if those haven’t evolved well beyond me as well. Luckily, I’ll be dead, so I won’t care.

  15. says

    “Cancel Culture” is a right wing fiction. It doesn’t exist. Nobody is out there trying to find things to cancel. Cancel culture is just CULTURE. When you see unacceptable behavior, like public intoxication or overt racism, you are filling a civic responsibility, not canceling someone’s free speech. It’s more like telling a drinking buddy he’s had enough. Not threatening to call the cops. Racism and white nationalism are incredibly destructive philosophies. When we call them out we are simply practicing civic responsibility. Like the disclaimer Twitter used to attach to DJT’s tweets. He was not being canceled. Nobody was going to send him to a “re-education camp”. It was a civic responsibility to inform the reader that the information was demonstrably not true. That’s not saying it was false. Just that it was not true. Things can be both.

    “Biden won the election” is a true statement. “Biden won the election with the help of voter fraud” for most people is false. “Biden won the election… fraud” is true enough for some people despite the lack of evidence. Those people are a miniscule minority, but because one of them was the POTUS, their voices were being amplified exponentially. Reining this in is not “Cancel Culture”. It’s simply the right thing to do.

  16. nomdeplume says

    The Right have been cancelling, blocking, punishing left wing views for centuries. Still are. And they will be damned if they permit any suggestion that right wing views are to be criticised.

  17. wajim says

    One question I used to ask my 1st and 2nd year students as an essay prompt back in the days (’93 to around 2005) was a simple question: If the Nazis (you know, Hitler, and so on) had invented a cure for cancer (all forms, or even for one particular form of it) would your moral/political rejection of Naziism (I hoped to assume, somewhat; this was at a northern Idaho 4 year Liberal Arts state college, mind you) lead you to reject using the cure? Not a tough question for me (i.e., “No, I’d take the money (cure) and run, so to speak, while loathing and actively resisting all else they had done or planned to do socio-politically”). That is, would you “cancel” the Nazi cure because of, well, Nazis? Very few would over the years, though some argued strenuously that they would. Mostly fundamentalist Christians and Mormons, go figure) In that hypothetical world, no memorials to the Nazis, but as Milton showed us even Satan had a positive side (at least for Milton, Dante, et al). Perhaps I should have asked if we should have built monuments to the Nazi scientists who discovered the cure.

  18. says

    I was just reading this about an episode of memorialization in Alan Jasanoff’s The Biological Mind (p. 177) and it seemed relevant:

    An unusual burial ceremony that took place at the German city of Tübingen in July 1990 bore witness to the most extreme consequence of stigmatizing brain disease. At this funeral, the deceased was not an individual but rather a set a scientific specimens, including brain sections obtained from victims of the Nazi program of “euthanasia” of the mentally disabled. These specimens embodied the connection between Nazi-era neuroscience and an official policy of mass murder that led to the deaths of over 70,000 people from psychiatric hospitals across Germany and Austria from 1939 to 1941. Killing took place as the culmination of a sustained Nazi campaign to present mental patients as subhuman beings who drained the nation’s resources. The victims’ mental illness was taken to be intrinsic and incurable, rooted in heritable biological properties that corrupted the German gene pool. Among those who benefitted from this massacre of innocents was Julius Hallevorden, a Nazi neurologist who studied the victims’ brain samples with the aim of relating mental illnesses to brain characteristics that rendered people unworthy of life. Hallevorden was reputed to have examined the brains of almost seven hundred euthanasia targets, and there is a high probability that some of the subjects were executed on demand to fuel studies.

    That Hallevorden’s brain samples remained in academic collections decades after World War II was a deep embarrassment to the institutions that had kept them. A memorial erected at the burial site carried a warning to scientists who transgress ethical boundaries:

    Displaced, oppressed, and maltreated,
    Victims of despotism or blind justice,
    They first found their rest here.
    Science which did not respect
    Their rights and dignity during life
    Sought even to use their bodies after death.
    Be this stone a reminder to the living.

    The Cambridge stained glass is lovely. Maybe they could just remove Fisher’s name and include a similar message/dedication…

  19. birgerjohansson says

    Swedish scientists were big on eugenics too. And there were plenty who admired aspects of the Third Reich. I have not compiled a list because I do not want to get even more depressed.

  20. birgerjohansson says

    OT The “woke mob” need to have a look at the governor of Mississippi- he just made April the month of “Confederate history and heritage”.
    The confederacy lasted just four years. And he likes the heritage so much he wants to have a month themed after it. WTF ?

  21. unclefrogy says

    @16 and 17
    it is what culture does
    I am really not surprised any more that the people who are the first to take offense are now finding a new way to take offense and condemn others the conservatives have been going on like this for ever. So long in fact that it looks to me that it’s the only consistent thing about them they are extremely judgmental and condemning of any thing that is different from what they themselves like and believe in.
    The problem seems to be rooted in this habit of sanctifying people and ideas. Of leaning toward deifying people like some Pharaoh of Egypt who at least erected their own monuments which were often soon robbed of the treasures within any way.
    note us all in history for what we were and what we did if you must but maybe we could stop with the deification. ideas change with experience and understanding and there is no way that can be stopped that is not self-destructive in the end.
    uncle frogy

  22. consciousness razor says

    The Cambridge stained glass is lovely. Maybe they could just remove Fisher’s name and include a similar message/dedication…

    Leonhard Euler would’ve been a better choice. (Not that he really needs any more recognition than he already has, but it would be appropriate for that design.)

    However, the name is part of the work (like the others in the series), and anyway they’ve already decided to remove it.

  23. Rob Grigjanis says

    cr @24: Unlike the others, Euler never worked or studied at Gonville & Caius College. Maybe Max Born, or Stephen Hawking.

  24. consciousness razor says

    Unlike the others, Euler never worked or studied at Gonville & Caius College. Maybe Max Born, or Stephen Hawking

    Yes, I realize that. But if a replacement were made for Born or Hawking or whoever you like, then it should be a different design which has something to do with their work, not a Latin square.

  25. Pierce R. Butler says

    … on May 11, 1943, … Fisher wrote … “I imagine their racial programme and their eugenic measures on the Home Front have been eminently successful in a way that is most difficult to deal with, namely that they have been successful with the best type of German.”

    At that point, the Nazis had held power for slightly over ten years. Did Fischer think Rommel had outfought the British in North Africa by deployment of überkinden?

    (You can’t tell from the outside who’s driving a tank … I see great potential for a B-movie here. Could we get Orson Scott Card to do the screenplay?)

  26. ORigel says

    At first, I thought you were saying that Jerry Coyne is being cancelled for being a regressive douchebag.

  27. Erp says

    I’m left wondering what various people thought Cambridge University could have done to stop the college. Gonville and Caius College is independent of the University as far as managing its own buildings and other assets (Oxbridge colleges are like that). Some of the colleges are even wealthier than their university.

    Also the UK despite attempts never did pass the forced sterilization measures. I just did a quick search on Hansard (record of parliamentary actions). From https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/1931-07-21/debates/9aa6f09f-3047-4f88-bbf1-57f064e3ef04/Sterilization which is a debate about a bill supported by the Eugenics Society. One of the opponents states:

    I submit that this is class legislation. In Europe there are Monarchies and dynasties riddled with haemophilia, a disease transmitted by the females but affecting the males. It causes bleeding on the slightest provocation or injury. I have never yet heard one expert speak of the advantage of sterilisation in the case of these royalties,

  28. raven says

    The Right have been cancelling, blocking, punishing left wing views for centuries.

    The Nazis were famous for the book burnings.
    The Roman Catholic church is famous for burning scholars and heretics at the stake.
    The RCC is also famous for keeping a list of banned books.
    Most xian blogs don’t allow comments.

    Index Librorum Prohibitorum

    The Index Librorum Prohibitorum (“List of Prohibited Books”) was a list of publications deemed heretical or contrary to morality by the Sacred Congregation of the Index (a former Dicastery of the Roman Curia), and Catholics were forbidden to read them without permission.[1]

    This list was abolished in 1966.

  29. raven says

    The confederacy lasted just four years. And he likes the heritage …

    What is the confederate heritage anyway?
    They lost. Losers.
    They were defending slavery and racism.
    Hundreds of thousands of dead people in a bloody war?
    The South has always been more backward and poorer than the rest of the USA with higher rates of social problems.

    I have to admit I’m drawing a blank here. Just what do they celebrate about the old Confederacy?

  30. says

    Oof. I used to read Coyne’s blog years ago, but quit following it when he started getting upset about Milo YeahIWantAttentionLosers being “deplatformed”. That was around five, six years ago…?

    Glad to see that he’s only gotten cringier…. (-_-)

  31. Marissa van Eck says

    “Cancel culture,” like everygoddamnthing else the “right” says in this country, is a dogwhistle. Decoded, it reads “Waaaaah, it’s not fair when they do it to uusssssss! Mommyyyyy, make the mean ol’ liberals an’ centrists STOP ITTTTT!”

    Hypocrites, every last one. May they burn.

  32. Ichthyic says

    You can find people who are offended by virtually anything

    that’s like saying you can find colorblind people while you are talking about the differences in color.

    it’s a disingenuous argument, at the very best. complete intellectual dishonesty fits better.

  33. Ichthyic says

    You are really just whitewashing history when you do this sort of thing

    if you actually understood what was happening, you would see it is exactly the opposite.

    but no, you have your head wedge so far up your own ass nobody can even wedge a flashlight up there to help you see.

    run along, you’re braindead.

  34. jrkrideau says

    @ 32 raven
    The Roman Catholic church is famous for burning scholars and heretics at the stake.

    Please name one scholar the Church burned at the stake?

  35. raven says

    Please name one scholar the Church burned at the stake?

    Giordano Bruno for among other things Heliocentrism.

    William Tyndale (/ˈtɪndəl/;[1] sometimes spelled Tynsdale, Tindall, Tindill, Tyndall; c. 1494 – c. 6 October 1536) was an English scholar who became a leading figure in the Protestant Reformation in the years leading up to his execution. He is well known as a translator of the Bible into English, influenced by the works of Erasmus of Rotterdam and Martin Luther.[2]
    Betrayal and death
    Eventually, Tyndale was betrayed by Henry Phillips[34] to authorities representing the Holy Roman Empire.[35] He was seized in Antwerp in 1535, and held in the castle of Vilvoorde (Filford) near Brussels.[36] Some suspect that Phillips was hired by Bishop Stokesley to gain Tyndale’s confidence and then betray him.

    He was tried on a charge of heresy in 1536 and was found guilty and condemned to be burned to death, despite Thomas Cromwell’s intercession on his behalf. Tyndale “was strangled to death while tied at the stake, and then his dead body was burned”.[37]

    Tyndale was one of the first to translate the bible into English, something the RCC opposed.
    “A number of partial English translations had been made from the 7th century onwards, but the religious ferment caused by Wycliffe’s Bible in the late 14th century led to the death penalty for anyone found in unlicensed possession of Scripture in English, though translations were available in all other major European languages.[3]”
    It was a death penalty offense to posses translations of the bible into English.

  36. raven says

    @39 You are trolling and trying to pick a fight.
    I’m not interested.
    The subject of this thread is Ronald Fischer, cancel culture (whatever that is), and woke mobs.

    Go find somebody else to stalk.

  37. raven says


    Wikipedia has a long series of lists of noted people burned at the stake by the RCC.
    Read it yourself.
    Quite a few were scholars and thinkers of one sort or another.

    Cecco d’Ascoli
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Cecco d’Ascoli (1257 – September 26, 1327) is the popular name of Francesco degli Stabili (sometimes given as Francesco degli Stabili Cichus), an Italian encyclopaedist, physician and poet. Cecco (in Latin, Cichus) is the diminutive of Francesco, Ascoli was the place of his birth. The lunar crater Cichus is named after him.

    “He was the first university scholar to be burned by the Inquisition.”

    The hundreds of thousands or millions murdered by the RCC are mostly ancient history and nameless. The Mayans were a literate people with large libraries of their books. All except 4 of their books were burned by the Spanish.

  38. Tethys says

    Michael Servetus was a scholar who was burned at the stake. Sometimes the church killed people in other ways first before burning them, or just burned off their hands.

    The Inquisitors were very creative with brutal torture.

  39. Pierce R. Butler says

    wajm @ # 18: If the Nazis … had invented a cure for cancer (all forms, or even for one particular form of it) would your moral/political rejection of Naziism … lead you to reject using the cure?

    NOT a moot or academic question: German physicians in the 1930s clearly identified tobacco-smoking as a major cause of cancer. The tobacco industry’s advertising and lobbying hammered the hell out of that point in the 1950s and ’60s, and probably thereby succeeded in delaying the nicotine warnings and other tyrannical limitations (cigarette advertising on TV & billboards has been CANCELLED!!1!) we struggle under today.

    By current Republican standards, telling anyone not to smoke adds up to endorsing the entire Gestapo/Red Skull agenda.

  40. lumipuna says

    petitions to have a stained glass window honoring Ronald Fisher removed from his Cambridge college.

    I’m sure after that he will be remembered in a new light.

  41. chrislawson says

    Back to the topic. “Wokeness” and “cancel culture” are the literal embodiments of right-wing hypocrisy writ large. After generations of suppressing non-conservatives to the point of executing them en masse, they are now objecting to…taking down a few honorifics for the worst kind of people. It’s not as if anyone is insisting we wipe Fisher’s publications from the record or rename “Fisher’s exact test”.

  42. Deepak Shetty says

    @Autobot Silverwynde

    Oof. I used to read Coyne’s blog years ago, but quit following it when he started getting upset about Milo YeahIWantAttentionLosers being “deplatformed”

    Well if we are comparing notes , I think my turning point was when Coyne, the freeze peach and current anti -cancel culture warrior wrote a open letter (and asked for signatures from his commenters) to Josh Rosenau’s employer complaining about Rosenau’s views on theistic evolution on Rosenau’s personal blog!(was banned from his blog shortly thereafter too I think)

  43. John Wilkins says

    Incidentally, I am deeply opposed to cancelling people. My man Vlad the Impaler has been unjustly and anachronistically attacked for being cruel and murderous, when all he did was put sticks up a few people’s bums. It was all the rage that the time.

  44. llyris says

    Jeebus!!!! The stupid just goes on and on. I didnt even make it to the end.
    Leaving aside the arrogance of presuming to know what
    kind of intelligence makes a better human, the idea that ‘defective’ humans naturally gravitate to the bottom is easily ans soundly disproved by looking at pictures of the royal families of Europe. Hapsburg jaw, anyone???? Actual ‘defective’ humans.

  45. Prax says

    hemidactylus @14,
    From your second Coyne link, he seems to have found a bit of time amidst all the other…stuff to defend the honor of the one-drop rule:

    To me this is a distinction without much of a difference, and the reasons people want to make it a difference speaks powerfully about the hegemony of race above all traits. It’s simply not okay to assume the identity of a black person when you’re born white, even though you’re giving up “privilege”. (It is, however, apparently okay to make the opposite racial transition: the familiar “passing for white”, even though that isn’t based on dysphoria but an attempt to gain social and economic advantage).


  46. Louis says

    We have the same “Good”/”Bad” calculus here in the UK regarding Empire.

    Apparently trains > genocide.

    Just to keep you up to date with current thinking on complex sociological and historical phenomena, in case you have not been reading the Journal of We’re Definitely The Good Guys Studies.

    So, as long as Fisher was in favour of trains, and he was, I’m sorry, but since actual genocide is worse than advocating for eugenics, he’s a good guy and can stay venerated in all ways.



  47. Louis says

    Since it has come up above: offended.

    I’m not offended by any -ism/bigotry/horrific act of harmful discrimination etc. And even if I was, so the fuck what? I’m not worried about my fee-fees being hurt, or someone else’s. It’s a red herring.

    If someone can’t go to work, for example, for fear of harassment, or if someone porting a lethal bag of Skittles is at greater risk than I of being shot by the police, or is sought out to be beaten up because of who they love, I’m not offended by this. I will oppose this. This is injustice, and frankly, if your key emotion about injustice is of the same species as the emotion you experience when seeing someone wearing socks with sandals (a true crime we can all agree on), then you need different emotional priorities. Anger =/= offence. Desire to correct an injustice =/=offence.

    And yes, I am offended by an inaccurate linguistic contrivance, but isn’t that what is most important here?


  48. says

    Finally, economist and former Reagan Administration official, Paul Craig Roberts, condemned Cambridge University for caving to “ignorant BLM thugs” and declared that we are now “witnessing the surrender of Western Civilization to barbarians.

    They’re replacing dog whistles with air raid sirens now.

  49. raven says

    …Paul Craig Roberts…“witnessing the surrender of Western Civilization to barbarians.

    Paul Craig Roberts went off the rails long ago.
    He is a poly crackpot.

    The End of White America Is Now Assured – PaulCraigRoberts
    Sep 7, 2019 — The End of White America Is Now Assured

    So much wrong with that idea.
    I’m white like most on this blog and would know if I’m being genocided.

  50. bodach says

    So I’m working my way through “Why Evolution is True”. So does Coyne go off the rails here or is it still a good resource?
    Thanks in advance.

  51. says

    I’m of the opinion that mathematicians should rename things which are currently named after Teichmuller. Is that too much wokeness? Will folks like Coyne insist that Teichmuller “wasn’t really racist,” or that calling Teichmuller a Nazi removes all meaning from the word “Nazi?”

  52. says

    Tethys wrote:

    Michael Servetus was a scholar who was burned at the stake. Sometimes the church killed people in other ways first before burning them, or just burned off their hands.

    It’s true that Servetus was burned at the stake but it wasn’t done by the Roman Catholic Church or the Inquisition.

    Servetus was a non-trinitarian Christian who was condemned by the Catholic Church and the more traditional portions of the Protestant Reformation.

    He was burned at the stake by Calvinists in Geneva, Switzerland.


  53. KG says


    I assume when they awarded the honor they were fine with the person’s behaviour.

    Of course they fucking were. So what?

  54. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    To flex in 12
    Thanks for writing all of that before I could. Well said.

    wajim in 18 beat me to another thought experiment that I wanted to make. Well done.

  55. dianne says

    Germany is in the middle of a continent. it was never “pure” genetically in any way. It was never meant to be. I’ve heard claims that “Deutsch” means “trader”. In other words, it’s a whole country of traveling salespeople and you know where that ends up genetically. Also, the best type of successful vaccine producing Germans are Turkish immigrants. Immigration FTW. Again. Would we have monuments to Nazis who cured cancer? Don’t know. They didn’t. They never do. Maybe we should make some monuments to the person who discovered the breakthrough that led to cure for (some) cancers. Jane Wright. A black woman. Gee, why isn’t her name better known?

  56. Dr Sarah says

    ‘…a raging mob of woke Leftists dig up my corpse…’

    Cool, I finally found out what I’d like to have done with my remains after I die.