My friend and colleague Casey Luskin has penned a poignant essay in memory of Richard Lewontin, a Harvard evolutionary biologist who passed away at 92 recently. Casey is a gentleman and a scholar, and very much disposed to finding the best in people. Indeed it seems there was much that was very good in Lewontin’s persona, and Casey highlighted it beautifully in his encomium.
I am not of the opinion, however, that we should speak only good of the dead. The passing of a public figure is a good time to consider his impact, and Lewontin’s impact on American culture and science is something very much worth considering.
By all accounts, Lewontin was a gentleman and a good friend and affable mentor to this colleagues and students. From what I know of him, I think I would have enjoyed his company and valued his friendship. He was a man of remarkable social and intellectual gifts. But in my view, his exercise of these gifts inflicted incalculable damage on the scientific profession and on our culture …
Richard Lewontin was congenial academic but his agenda was to advance a materialist view of science despite his admission of its “patent absurdities.”Michael Egnor, “Remembering a biologist’s remarkable confession of faith” at Mind Matters News
See also: Tributes to Richard Lewontin (1919 – 2021) Paul Nelson: Lewontin opposed the facile storytelling of much of sociobiology, with its invocation of hypothetical genes for equally hypothetical behavioral traits. The fact that his opposition stemmed in part from his politics is no indictment; his evidential critique holds its value, or stands on its own two legs, independently of the Marxism. Show me the actual data, he would say, or stop the storytelling.