When we first started hearing the scuttlebutt about the recently deceased founder of sociobiology, we tended to think, oh, yeah, he’s a racist, just like all those (black) creationist pastors… yawn.
But now some new information has emerged: Interesting material from a box of Wilson’s letters in the Library of Congress:
Now, two separate pairs of researchers, drawing from Wilson’s papers at the Library of Congress, have published details of correspondence in which Wilson privately supports a psychologist known for his racist work. “It doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Joseph Graves, Jr., an evolutionary biologist at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University who has written extensively about scientific racism, and who reviewed some of the new archival work before it was published. What’s important about the new research, he added, “was coming up with the smoking gun.”Michael Schulson, “New Evidence Revives Old Questions About E.O. Wilson and Race” at Undark (February 16, 2022)
It was a fluke of the COVID-19 pandemic , actually:
One pair of researchers who surfaced those connections, Howard University evolutionary biologist Stacy Farina and her husband, Matthew Gibbons, began reading sections of “Sociobiology” while stuck at home during the Covid-19 pandemic. They were taken aback by what they found.Michael Schulson, “New Evidence Revives Old Questions About E.O. Wilson and Race” at Undark (February 16, 2022)
Stuck for regular work to do, they decided to go through boxes of Wilson’s correspondence at the Library of Congress. There. they discovered that he had an amicable relationship with an undoubted racist psychologist, Canadian J. Philippe Rushton. Rushton, who was something of a pariah in Canada, headed up a eugenics outfit, the Pioneer Fund, from 2002 util his death in 2012.
The letters, Farina said, demonstrate a warm relationship between Wilson and the psychologist. In the correspondence, which dates from the 1980s and ’90s, Wilson expressed support for Rushton’s work, and lamented a stifling culture that, he suggested, had prevented him from speaking more freely, referring in one note to a “leftward revival of McCarthyism.” When Rushton’s university seemed poised to sanction him for academic misconduct, Wilson sent letters in his defense. He also sent letters to drum up support for Rushton from colleagues at Harvard and at the conservative National Association of Scholars.Michael Schulson, “New Evidence Revives Old Questions About E.O. Wilson and Race” at Undark (February 16, 2022)
Two historians, David Sepkoski and Mark Borello, happened to be combing the same files, unbeknownst to Farina and Gibbons:
The correspondence, Sepkoski and Borrello now say, suggests that Wilson was carefully managing his public persona — even as he quietly continued his dispute with his left-wing critics.
Providing comments on one Rushton paper — which applied a famous Wilson theory, meant to examine reproductive differences between different species, to argue that Black and non-Black people pursue different reproductive strategies — Wilson was effusive. “This is a brilliant paper,” he wrote, “one of the most original and heuristic written on human biology in recent years.”
“Whether it can even be published in this or some other journal devoted to human sociobiology,” Wilson wrote later in his comments, “will be a test of our courage and fidelity to objectivity in science.”Michael Schulson, “New Evidence Revives Old Questions About E.O. Wilson and Race” at Undark (February 16, 2022)
Some have dismissed the findings but others say they fit a pattern:
“I don’t really care that Wilson had racist ideas, because I know pretty much all of the people that I dealt with, when I was coming up through the science system, had racist ideas,” said [evolutionary biologist Joseph] Graves, who in 1988 became the first Black American to receive a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology. “Wilson was just one of many.”Michael Schulson, “New Evidence Revives Old Questions About E.O. Wilson and Race” at Undark (February 16, 2022)
Oh. So what does that mean for the future of Darwinism? It appears from Schulson’s article that zealous witch hunts are now in progress.
You may also wish to read: Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne defends “Darwin’s heir” from accusations of racism Unfocused claims of “racism” are a familiar Woke tactic for destroying careers and reputations and they are only beginning to hit Darwinians. (Neither Jerry Coyne nor we knew about this stuff at the time the article was written. Coyne is currently airbrushing Wilson’s legacy.)