In this letter to Bert Hölldobler, following up on his defense of his long-time colleague E. O. Wilson, who has been falsely accused of racism and knowingly promoting race science, Mel Konner, who also knew and worked with Wilson, reinforces the point that Wilson’s defense of Philippe Rushton was done out of concerns about academic freedom; in fact, Konner notes that there are other reasons for critiquing Wilson, primarily for his ultimate rejection of kin selection — one of the key tenets of evolutionary theory.
A reply to Bert Hölldobler on the Matter of Edward O. Wilson, Race, Racism, and Race Science
I read with great interest and appreciation your defense of Ed Wilson published on skeptic.com on April 5, 2022, “Self-Righteous Vigilantism in Science: The Case of Edward O. Wilson,” and I just have a few comments. I thank you for your account of my interaction with Dick Lewontin; you have gotten my question right. I think I protested on behalf of the voluminous evidence (Eibl-Eibesfeldt etc.) for the universality of human social smiling, to which Dick replied, “Yes, but a human can smile and smile and be a villain.” If memory serves me right, Sarah Hrdy called out from behind me, “So can a chimp!”
Editor’s note: here is the passage under discussion:
At an evening debate held at Boston University in 1976, the noted Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin leveled unsubstantiated charges of genetic determinism that leads to racism against Wilson. Melvin Konner, then a graduate student (today a well-known anthropologist, medical doctor, and successful author), asked Lewontin whether he denied that the basic facial expressions of human infants could be considered innately produced. Dick Lewontin reflexively and emphatically replied that there was not a shred of evidence to support this. I was amazed and raised my hand. At this moment, Dick saw me in the audience and before I could finish recounting all the literature providing hard evidence for Mel’s statement, Dick waved his arms and shouted, “OK, OK, you obviously know more about this, so let’s move on.” Unfortunately, that was the point then, and is the point today, as these same unsubstantiated and unfortunate charges have resurfaced and have been picked up on the blogosphere and elsewhere, by people who obviously know little about Ed Wilson.
I am proud to say there were many occasions in those years when I defended Ed and Sociobiology against the self-identified Marxist organization “Science for the People,” replying to their critique of his magisterial work, especially the quite reasonable last chapter on humans, in detail. Being a young leftist myself, but a few years away from student activism, I always thought it droll that the serious protests of the 1960s had degenerated into these oh-so-safe academic attacks, when just beyond the Harvard campus were dreadful ongoing real injustices that the activists at “Science for the People” ignored. […]
EPISODE # 262
Oliver Stone on Ukraine, Putin, and the Military-Industrial Complex
In episode 262, Shermer speaks with Oliver Stone about: the relationship with truth in dramatic films vs. documentary films; how the world would be different if JFK were not assassinated; why diplomacy and trade agreements are necessary with Russia, even now after the invasion of Ukraine; the Cuban Missile Crisis, U.S. Jupiter missiles in Turkey, and Nikita Khrushchev’s response; Putin’s justifications for Soviet/Russian actions in Hungary, Afghanistan, Georgia, Chechnya, Syria, and Crimea; what he thinks Putin would say to justify the invasion of Ukraine; why he thinks we can’t trust Western media; U.S. foreign policy and how he thinks it is just as aggressive as Russia’s; and his moral equivalency argument for American vs. Russian aggression.
Oliver Stone studied at Yale University, taught English in South Vietnam, and served in the Vietnam War in the U.S. Army where he earned two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star. He then attended film school at NYU and studied under the acclaimed director Martin Scorsese. Stone won his first Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Midnight Express (1978) and won his second and third as Best Director for Platoon (1986) and Born on the Fourth of July (1989) respectively. Stone also wrote the screenplay for Scarface, which went on to become one of the most iconic films in history. His directed several documentary films, including Comandante (2003), the Putin Interviews (2017), and the controversial JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass (2021).
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The “Doctors” are in
But should you trust them? We have the answers in the current issue of SKEPTIC magazine (27.1), available now in print and digital editions: (Illustration by Ástor Alexander)