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E. O. Wilson

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Dear Ed, …The battle continues, and I am now committed to carrying it to a victory, i.e., allowing genetic and evolutionary perspectives on race to be treated as normal science. …Again, my deepest appreciation for it all, With best regards, Phil.
—Letter from J. Philippe Rushton to E. O. Wilson[1]

Edward Osborne (E. O.) Wilson (June 10, 1929–December 26, 2021), was an American biologist, zoologist, naturalist, ecologist, and entomologist,[2] known for developing the field of sociobiology, the primary forerunner of evolutionary psychology. Wilson did not himself invent the term "sociobiology" as it had been introduced at least as early as 1940 by the English anthropologist and humorist, Ashley Montagu in his essay "The Socio-biology of Man" (Scientific Monthly, 50:483-490).[3][note 1] Wilson also pioneered the field of island biogeography.Wikipedia

Wilson was well-known and almost universally loved and admired. In the introduction to the PBS documentary about Wilson, he was described as "one of America’s greatest living thinkers".[5] The Sarasota Herald-Tribune called him "A Hero of the Planet."[6] Leonardo DiCaprio tweeted that he was "the Darwin of the 20th Century."[7] But more controversially, Wilson supported some racialist ideas that live on in the modern-day so-called human biodiversity movement, and some have long claimed Wilson's sociobiology amounts to hereditarianism and biological determinism.

Wilson's work has also had political implications, primarily through his support of the racialist claims of J. Philippe Rushton, which have been used to argue against the social safety net and even for discrimination in employment.


Wilson was a professor at Harvard for 46 years. A natural scientist, his concern about plant and animal habitat degradation, and its impact on biodiversity led him to become a conservationist.[8] Apart from sociobiology, he also pioneered another discipline, island biogeography, a fundamental principle of ecology and conservation biology.[9] On the latter, he worked together with Robert H. MacArthur.Wikipedia

Wilson biographies are widely available both online[10] and in published biographies such as Scientist: E. O. Wilson: A Life in Nature by Richard Rhodes.Wikipedia.[11] and in Wilson's own memoir Naturalist.[12] He donated a great deal of his letters, reprints, conference proceedings, etc. to the U.S. National Archive at the request of the Library of Congress.

The E. O. Wilson Foundation notes that it was thanks to the publication of Sociobiology that Wilson became famous — while recounting the water incident:

Not since Alfred Kinsey has an entomologist’s career been so marked by controversy. Wilson became a public figure in 1975 with Sociobiology (Harvard University Press), which argued that social behavior, in humans as in other species, has a biological foundation. Some critics — most notably Richard Lewontin and Stephen Jay Gould, both just down the hall in Harvard’s biology department — saw the book as providing scientific cover for racism and sexism. In a well-known incident at the 1978 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a demonstrator dumped a pitcher of ice water on his head, shouting, "Wilson, you’re all wet!"[13]

"An endearing southern gentleman"[edit]

Leonardo DiCaprio, portraying "Southern Gentleman" Calvin Candie in Django Unchained - and he does an amazing job, just ask Roy Wood Jr..

Throughout the latter half of his career, Wilson was often referred to as a "southern gentleman": "a soft-spoken southern gentleman"[14][15], "an endearing Southern gentleman"[16],"greeted us with the warmth of a true southern gentleman"[17], "looks and acts the part of a southern gentleman[18],"always retaining the kindness and generosity of a true ‘southern gentleman'"[19], "the grand 77-year-old Southern gentleman"[20], "ever the reasoned Southern gentleman" [21], "A mild-mannered southern gentleman."[22]

"Southern Gentleman" is an American archetype that is often associated with racism,[23] per TVTropes:[24] "...depending on time period, he usually either owns slaves or is nostalgic for the era of slavery (even if he doesn't harbor any actual racist views, the romanticism of The South's "golden age" is what matters)." One of the examples given is Candie, the sadistic plantation owner in the film Django Unchained, who studies "the racist pseudoscience of phrenology" as a hobby.

In his 1994 autobiography Naturalist, Wilson said: "'I instinctively respect authority and believe emotionally if not intellectually that it should be perturbed only for conspicuous cause. At my core I am a social conservative, a loyalist. I cherish traditional institutions, the more venerable and ritual-laden the better."[25]

The path to sociobiology[edit]

20th century hereditarians and the civil rights movement[edit]

The civil rights movement of the 1960s was opposed by hereditarians. Henry Garrett,Wikipedia the President of the American Psychological Association and Chair of Psychology at Columbia University organized an international group of scholars dedicated to preventing "race mixing", promoting segregation and eugenics.[26] During the 1950s-1960s Garrett helped distribute grants for the white nationalist Pioneer Fund. Recipients of Pioneer Fund money would eventually include Arthur Jensen, Hans Eysenck, Richard Lynn, J. Philippe Rushton, the Minnesota Twin Family StudyWikipedia and Mankind Quarterly.[27]

Garrett published The Equalitarian Dogma in 1961.[28] The paper attacked opponents of hereditarianism, claiming that the belief in racial equality was dogma, asking: Many college students have been indoctrinated and parrot the equalitarian arguments without competent familiarity with the evidence, shifting from the "scientific" to the moralistic position as the occasion requires. The northern press and many influential magazines, together with radio and TV programs, confidently proclaim equalitarianism. How can we account for today's shift from a general belief in native racial differences to acceptance of the equalitarian dogma?"

The claim that opposition to the race essentialism of hereditarians is a dogma is a favorite claim of present-day hereditarians, and even the term "equalitarian" has been adopted by them, likely in honor of those pro-segregation hereditarians, as with the Bo Winegard co-authored paper Equalitarianism: A Source of Liberal Bias.[29]

Garrett co-wrote the introduction to Carleton Putnam's 1961 Race and Reason, a Yankee View. The introduction includes the strategy that hereditarians would use again and again, right up to the present time: while using "science" to argue in favor of a political position, they accuse their anti-hereditarian opponents of politicizing science.[30][31]

Biological scientists seldom find themselves writing an introduction to what is essentially a study of a social problem. However, the problem in this instance is of such great importance from both the scientific and social standpoints, and the two are so closely interrelated, that we cannot dissociate ourselves from the task.

Our professional interest lies in the scientific foundations on which Mr. Putnam rests his thesis. We are in complete accord with what he has to say concerning these foundations. We agree with his balanced presentation of genetic and environmental factors in the area of both racial and individual biology. We believe they deserve this sharp reappraisal in the light of current problems in the world at large. We can also confirm Putnam's estimate of the extent to which non-scientific, ideological pressures have harassed scientists in the last thirty years, often resulting in the suppression or distortion of truth.

The intrusion of political thought into the social and anthropological sciences which has occurred on a massive scale during this period, has been a very great disservice to scientific investigation and to the guidance which scientific work and its conclusions ought to be able to render to human society. Man must be guided by science, but scientific thought must not be moulded to preconceived political ideas.[32]

In 1962, Putnam's cousin, Carleton S. Coon, while professor of anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, and serving as president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists published The Origin of Races, which promoted "racial polygenism". Coon stepped down as President of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in protest after the association voted to censure his book Race and Reason.[33]

In 1966 Garrett produced a pamphlet, How Classroom Desegregation Will Work, which states: "it is clear that desegregation will not pull the Negro up to White standards. To the contrary, desegregation will pull down the White child. Every items[sic] of evidence points this way."[34]. When Garrett died in 1973, the New York Times mentioned nothing about his racialist views and activities.[35]

In spite of the ongoing attempts of well-connected and well-respected members of academia and science, throughout the 1950s and 1960s, to prove biological races exist and those races possess distinct mental and behavioral traits, and from that argue that therefore desegregation was bad, the civil rights movement had great successes in the 1960s, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the end of American miscegenation laws through Loving v. Virginia in 1967.

But the quest to prove Black American inferiority through "science" continued. The main difference would be that from now on the hereditarians would no longer explicitly support segregation.

Wilson's view of the civil rights movement[edit]

In his book Naturalist, Wilson testified to rethinking his "social heritage" in his mid-20s. He said:

The civil rights activists who risked their lives to break segregation were heroes to my liking: single-mindedly true to a moral code, physically courageous, enduring. That was enough to make me look again at this part of my social heritage. And by then I had left Alabama. The world changed; I changed. But I cannot claim to have been a liberal as a boy and young man, certainly not one with any foresight or courage. The trajectory that took me into science would have been the same regardless; and I will not now be so presumptuous or hypocritical as to offer an extraneous apology for the proud and tortured culture through which I passed to the naturalist’s calling.[12]

Naturalist was published in 1994. Between 1987 and 1994 Wilson had exchanged letters with J. Philippe Rushton, encouraging his pseudoscientific claims about Black people. There are no letters available after 1994, but that could be the result of switching to email.


Before the 1960s ended, Arthur Jensen published claims that lower Black IQ test scores were the result of the genetic deficiencies of Black people. Jensen's theory was coined as "jensenism — the theory that IQ is largely determined by the genes." The New York Times explained how it made Jensen famous:

A tall, almost somber figure, addicted to dark attire, he strode through the corridors with aloof dignity. He seldom cracked a smile, fraternized with colleagues or engaged in small talk. He was a very involved, very serious professor's professor who had no time for hanky-panky and insisted on keeping himself free of the academic maelstrom. "It's incredible," a colleague once remarked after leaving his office. "Jensen is so absorbed he doesn't realize he's on top of a volcano."

Then on Feb. 15 the volcano erupted. The Harvard Educational Review, a 30-year-old scholarly journal published by Harvard graduate students, came out with an article by Jensen entitled How Much Can We Boost IQ and Scholastic Achievement? The detailed scientific paper, the longest ever printed in the review, begins with an appraisal of the alleged failure of compensatory education programs such as Head Start, a project to help preschool ghetto youngsters overcome years of cultural deprivation in order to catch up with middle-class youngsters in school readiness. The article goes on to state that these programs seek, in effect, to raise children's academic achievement by increasing their I.Q's. Jensen then examines the entire concept of the IQ: "what makes it vary from one individual to another, what changes it, and by what amount." In the process he says that Negroes as a group — as opposed to any single individual Negro — test out poorly compared with whites or Orientals on that aspect of general intelligence that involves abstract reasoning and problem-solving. And he adds that this ability (which he equates with the ability measured by I.Q. tests) is largely inherited, a matter of genes and brain structure, and therefore no amount of compensatory education or forced exposure to culture is going to improve it substantially.[36]

Richard Herrnstein[edit]

The project to prove that intelligence (and therefore human social hierarchies) is the direct result of genetics continued into the 1970s. In 1971 Richard Herrnstein published an article in The Atlantic, titled "IQ". In the article, Herrnstein refers to "biological barriers" of class and "a natural level in society."[37]

As with Jensen, Herrnstein's genetic claims made him famous, so famous that then-president Richard Nixon was influenced by Herrnstein. In a taped conversation with Daniel Patrick Moynihan,Wikipedia Nixon broached Herrnstein's article. The tape is available online here. The relevant bit begins at 1:32:50.

Nixon: "The reason I called you as a matter of fact — I sort of read things — when I was in Florida going over to Walker's I read with great interest your piece from the UN on Herrnstein's piece, you know, that I passed onto you. Let me say first of all nobody in the staff even knows I read the goddamn article… and nobody in this staff is going to know any better because I couldn't agree more with you that the Herrnstein's stuff and all the rest, this is not — first nobody must think we're thinking about it, and second if we do find out it's correct we must never tell anybody… that's right, yes, now let me add a few things that you can and you might just make some mental notes about it or anything you want just as I give you my own views. I've reluctantly concluded based at least on the evidence presently before me and I don't base it on any scientific evidence that that what Herrstein says and also what was said earlier by Jensen and so forth is it’s probably very close to truth. Now… now having said that then, you copper that by saying something that the racists would never agree with, that within groups there are geniuses, they're geniuses within black groups, there are more within Asian groups and incidentally it was a rather neat trick to point out that the Asians are number one and the Caucasians are number two.

Moynihan: And the Eskimos.

Nixon: - and the Eskimos are above the whites, which is good — and also your little deal about the English and the Irish. Now that is the best example of the fact this is knowledge but it is knowledge that it is better not to know. At least good God it would cause another war, they haven’t enough damn problems in Northern Ireland now…

Nixon and Moynihan go on to discuss the ramifications for social welfare policy and Nixon wonders whether well-educated Black teachers are qualified to teach English.

Nixon: Now the second point I raise then and I raise — this is really hitting at the nerve center — is this true when you have an integrated faculty — let’s take for example where my daughter was teaching (unclear) — or was going to teach. Let's suppose that that you've got a Black, graduated from a good Black college in The South, teaching English, now do you believe that she can teach English?

In 1973 Herrnstein published IQ in the Meritocracy. In the acknowledgments section, Herrnstein's list of "helpful respondents" includes T. J. Bouchard,Wikipedia Arthur Jensen and William Shockley.Wikipedia[38][39]

In 1994 Herrnstein co-authored, with Charles Murray,[40] The Bell Curve, described by Matthew Yglesias[41] as "a tract proposing the comprehensive revision of the American welfare state along eugenicist lines"[42]

Enter sociobiology[edit]

Throughout the 1960s, hereditarian arguments were made against desegregation and against social programs to aid poor (often Black) children. But there was no single overarching research strategy to be used for furthering the hereditarian project as a science.

In 1969-70, Wilson created the sociobiology concept and outlined how it could be linked with biology and "to some extent, with the humanities."[43]

Previously, in 1967 working with Robert MacArthur, Wilson had coined the terms "r-selection" and "K-selection",[44] but the usefulness of r/K selection to human-centric sociobiology would not be clear to Wilson until his conversations with J. Philippe Rushton.

In 1971 Wilson introduced the term "sociobiology" in his book The Insect Societies.[45]

Sociobiology: The New Synthesis[edit]

Cover of the book Sociobiology

In 1975 Wilson published Sociobiology: The New Synthesis.[46]

Wilson was aware of the fame that Jensen achieved in 1969[47] followed by Herrnstein in 1971[48] for their controversial claims.

Wilson recounted that Herrnstein received institutional support from Harvard, in an interview published in the hereditarian publication Quillette:

Richard Herrnstein was a very good psychologist who had written an article or two on human IQ and the evidence regarding IQ tests. He was studying IQ and heritability which in those days was a really taboo subject. He made himself a target even though he was a decent man whose best work was done in learning behavior of pigeons. He did excellent work, with Skinner

…Herrnstein wasn’t the only professor being followed around by protesters stirred up with wrong ideas. The dean of the faculty at the time, Henry Rosovsky, formed a committee, and I was invited to be on it — this was before I had my run-in, so maybe it was ‘73 or ‘74. We met in the dean’s office to discuss how to protect Richard Herrnstein from Lewontin and others. There were a couple of others who had joined in the pursuit. The conclusion was that there was nothing we could do. We were committed to freedom of speech, so what could we do? But we called in Herrnstein for our second meeting and told him we understood what was happening and regretted it very much, and if he needed counseling or support that we could give it to him without risking the principle of academic freedom, and that this committee would be there ready to help him. I’m sorry that didn’t get written up anywhere. But that’s what happened at the time.[49]

"The amphetamine of ambition"[edit]

In his autobiography, Wilson explains what drove him to write Sociobiology:

Once again I was roused by the amphetamine of ambition. Go ahead, I told myself, pull out all the stops. Organize all of sociobiology on the principles of population biology. I knew I was sentencing myself to a great deal more hard work. The Insect Societies had just consumed eighteen months. When added to my responsibilities at Harvard and ongoing research program in ant biology, the writing had pushed my work load up to eighty-hour weeks. Now I invested two more years, 1972 to 1974, in the equally punishing and still more massive new book, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis. Knowing where my capabilities lay, I chose the second of the two routes to success in science: breakthroughs for the extremely bright, syntheses for the driven.[12]

In the first chapter of Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, Wilson explains his ambition for sociobiology - One Synthesis to rule them all:

Taxonomy and ecology, however, have been reshaped entirely during the past forty years by integration into neo-Darwinist evolutionary theory — the Modern Synthesis, as it is often called — in which each phenomenon is weighed for its adaptive significance and then related to the basic principles of population genetics. It may not be too much to say that sociology and the other social sciences, as well as the humanities, are the last branches of biology waiting to be included in the Modern Synthesis. One of the functions of sociobiology, then, is to reformulate the foundations of the social sciences in a way that draws these subjects into the Modern Synthesis.[46]

The last chapter of the book includes claims about human sociobiology, and even cites Herrnstein's Atlantic IQ article, the one that caused Richard Nixon to wonder if well-educated Black women were capable of teaching English:

Using a similar argument, Herrnstein (1971b) proposed that as environmental opportunities become more nearly equal within societies, socioeconomic groups will be defined increasingly by genetically based differences in intelligence.[46]:279

"I recognized an opportunity"[edit]

In his autobiography, Wilson explained why he included the chapter on human sociobiology:

As I proceeded, I recognized an opportunity: the animal chapters would gain intellectual weight from their relevance to human behavior. At some point I turned the relationship around: I came to believe that evolutionary biology should serve as the foundation of the social sciences.

Hence my conception of human sociobiology did not spring from any grand Comtean scheme of the relation between the natural and social sciences. I simply expanded the range of the subjects that interested me, starting with ants and proceeding to social insects, then to animals and finally to man. Believing the time ripe for the melding of biology and the social sciences, I used strong, provocative language to start the process. The last chapter of Sociobiology was meant to be a catalyst dropped among reagents already present and ready to combine.

Then everything spun out of control. In my calculations I had not counted on the ferocity of the response at my own university.[12]:336

Wilson always claimed to be surprised by the controversy stirred up by his human sociobiology claims, in spite of deliberately creating a "catalyst" and supported with a Herrnstein citation and expressed with "strong, provocative language."

Understandably, John Maynard SmithWikipedia found Wilson's claim hard to believe:

I had been blindsided by the attack. Having expected some frontal fire from social scientists on primarily evidential grounds, I had received instead a political enfilade from the flank. A few observers were surprised that I was surprised. John Maynard Smith, a senior British evolutionary biologist and former Marxist, said that he disliked the last chapter of Sociobiology himself and "it was also absolutely obvious to me — I cannot believe Wilson didn't know — that this was going to provoke great hostility from American Marxists, and Marxists everywhere." But it was true that I didn't know. I was unprepared perhaps because, as Maynard Smith further observed, I am an American rather than a European. In 1975 I was a political naif: I knew almost nothing about Marxism as either a political belief or a mode of analysis; I had paid little attention to the dynamism of the activist Left, and I had never heard of Science for the People. I was not an intellectual in the European or New York/Cambridge sense.[12]:338-339

With Sociobiology, Wilson achieved not only fame but the National Medal of Science:

On August 1 1977, Sociobiology was on the cover Time. On November 22 I received the National Medal of Science from President Carter for my contributions to the new discipline. Two months later, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, held in Washington, demonstrators seized the stage as I was about to give a lecture, dumped a pitcher of ice water on my head, and chanted, “Wilson, you’re all wet!” The ice-water episode may be the only occasion in recent American history on which a scientist was physically attacked, how ever mildly, simply for the expression of an idea.

What Wilson neglects to mention here is that between November 22, 1977 and the water incident in February 1978, Wilson had published On Human Nature in January 1978 in which for the first time Wilson explicitly claims genetic racial differences.

On Human Nature[edit]

Wilson published On Human Nature[50] in January 1978. In it, he takes his claims from Sociobiology one step further by speculating on genetic causes for race-based (or as he calls it "geographical variation") differences in human social behavior. As evidence, Wilson used the work of Daniel G. FreedmanWikipedia and one of his students. In 1968, Freedman had delivered a paper The ethological study of man at the Eugenics Society Symposium.[51]

In 1979 Freedman published his own sociobiology book, thanking Wilson for his encouragement[52] In his Human Sociobiology: A Holistic Approach, Freedman explains that he took his first step towards human sociobiology when he began to wonder about differences between himself and his Chinese wife:

I had worked with different breeds of dogs and I had been struck by how predictable was the behavior of each breed. A breed of dog is a construct zoologically and genetically equivalent to a race of man. To look at us, my wife and I were clearly of two different breeds. Were some of our behavioral differences determined by breed?[52]

Freedman had many sociobiology speculations:

In Human Sociobiology, for instance, he looked at male-female interactions, status hierarchies, infants, and the philosophy of science. His research looked at topics such as how children develop smiles and the reasons why men have beards. Beards, he said increase women’s attraction to men, he contended, as the facial hair makes them look masculine and mature.[53]

Implications amok[edit]

Freedman, ambitious like Wilson, found "broader implications" for the hereditarian hypothesis:

The broader implications of these findings started creeping in on me as we were testing the Chinese infants in San Francisco. At that time, my wife and I made a number of visits to the Avery Brundage Collection of Oriental Art at the De Young Museum, and I could not resist the thought that only grown-up versions of our Chinese babies could have produced art like this! There was, for example, the calm quality of a Chinese jade horse, compared to the tempestuousness of a Roman terra-cotta one. Since then, after reading such classics in art history as The Chinese Eye (Chiang, 1960), it has become clear to me that Eastern and Western art have had distinctive flavors: Western art has consistently made its males heroic; whereas even the military heroes of Chinese and Japanese art appear in sedate, unemotional, and conventionalized pose. Furthermore, Chinese landscape art, the most prevalent form of canvas painting, simply never contained recognizable human figures. Human hubris was kept below threshold, and the stick figures are a message that nature is master, not man. There could be no Chinese Michelangelo.[52]:153

In his 1997 book Consilience, Wilson expanded hereditarian implications further. In a review of the book, biologist H. Allen OrrWikipedia commented: "(Wilson) suggests that science will help tell us why painting A is better than painting B – a traditionally artsy enterprise. (Wilson believes neurobiology will find innate rules that cause us to prefer some visual art to others. The fact that twentieth-century art has been virtually defined by the rise of styles that people at first hated doesn’t seem to bother him.)"[54]

Five years later Steven Pinker would expand hereditarian artsy implications even further, by including a chapter-long harangue about contemporary art in The Blank Slate where he explains how contemporary art is bad because it is in opposition to "human nature," but good artists (mavericks) abide by the precepts of sociobiology:

Within the academy, a growing number of mavericks are looking to evolutionary psychology and cognitive science in an effort to reestablish human nature at the center of any understanding of the arts. They include Brian Boyd, Joseph Carroll, Denis Dutton, Nancy Easterlin, David Evans, Jonathan Gottschall, Paul Hernadi, Patrick Hogan, Elaine Scarry, Wendy Steiner, Robert Storey, Frederick Turner, and Mark Turner.[55]

(In his review for the New Yorker of The Blank Slate Louis Menand dryly observes: "Music appreciation, for instance, seems to be wired in at about the level of "Hot Cross Buns." But people learn to enjoy Wagner. They even learn to sing Wagner. One suspects that enjoying Wagner, singing Wagner, anything to do with Wagner, is in gross excess of the requirements of natural selection. To say that music is the product of a gene for "art-making," naturally selected to impress potential mates — which is one of the things Pinker believes — is to say absolutely nothing about what makes any particular piece of music significant to human beings. No doubt Wagner wished to impress potential mates; who does not? It is a long way from there to "Parsifal."[56])

Dog breeds and human natures[edit]

Convinced that humans could be classified like breeds of dogs, Freedman conducted tests with the goal of showing humans were like breeds of dogs.

A curious aspect of the studies, reflecting the typical carelessness of hereditarian racial claims, is that the "breeds" that Freedman selected were from different geographical scopes. He compared children with ancestry from China, a single country, against children with ancestry from a continent, Europe. To be fair, he does specify in his book that the Chinese children selected to be studied were from southern China while the "Caucasian" children had Northern European ancestry, although he doesn't say how exactly he determined that. But a region of a country versus a region of a continent still represents two different geographic scopes. The choice of ancestries to study was likely due to Freedman's personal situation, which he admits was the inspiration for his studies: his wife was Chinese and he considered himself "Caucasian."

Continuing the incoherent categorization system, Freedman then compares individuals from China, a country, to individuals from the Navaho, classified as "a people" related to the Apache.[57] The Navaho were living on reservations under the jurisdiction of the United States, which had a history of attempting to "assimilate" Native Americans through the boarding school system, which was active from 1860-1978.[58]

During the system, "Wherever they were located or whoever ran them, the schools largely shared the mission of assimilating Indigenous students by erasing their culture. Children’s hair was cut off; their clothes were burned; they were given new, English names and were required to attend Christian religious services; and they were forced to perform manual labor, both on school premises and on surrounding farms. Those who dared to keep speaking their ancestral languages or observing their religious practices were often beaten."[59]

Unconcerned about geographic scope or historical context, Wilson included Freedman's studies in the "Heredity" chapter of On Human Nature as evidence for the hereditarian hypothesis of innate racial differences in behavior.

Now we are prepared to ask in a more fully objective manner: Does geographical variation occur in the genetic basis of social behavior? The evidence is strong that almost all differences between human societies are based on learning and social conditioning rather than on heredity. And yet perhaps not quite all. Daniel G. Freedman, a psychologist at the University of Chicago, has addressed this question with a series of studies on the behavior of newborn infants of several racial origins. He has detected significant average differences in locomotion, posture, muscular tone of various parts of the body, and emotional response that cannot reasonably be explained as the result of training or even conditioning within the womb. Chinese-American newborns, for example, tend to be less changeable, less easily perturbed by noise and movement, better able to adjust to new stimuli and discomfort, and quicker to calm themselves than Caucasian-American infants. To use a more precise phrasing, it can be said that a random sample of infants whose ancestors originated in certain parts of China differ in these behavioral traits from a comparable sample of European ancestry.

There is also some indication that the average differences carry over into childhood. One of Freedman's students, Nova Green, found that Chinese-American children in Chicago nursery schools spent less of their time in approach and interaction with playmates and more time on individual projects than did their European-American counterparts. They also displayed interesting differences in temperament:

Although the majority of the Chinese-American children were in the "high arousal age," between 3 and 5, they showed little intense emotional behavior. They ran and hopped, laughed and called to one another, rode bikes and roller-skated just as the children did in the other nursery schools, but the noise level stayed remarkably low and the emotional atmosphere projected serenity instead of bedlam. The impassive facial expression certainly gave the children an air of dignity and self-possession, but this was only one element affecting the total impression. Physical movements seemed more coordinated, no tripping, falling, bumping or bruising was observed, no screams, crashes or wailing was heard, not even that common sound in other nurseries, voices raised in highly indignant moralistic dispute! No property disputes were observed and only the mildest version of "fighting behavior," some good natured wrestling among the older boys.

The extreme hereditarian preference for nature over nurture explanations for human behavior is apparent in the next paragraph. Freedman claims, and Wilson agrees, that cradleboarding was invented by the Navaho to accommodate the natural quiescence of their infants:

Navaho infants tested by Freedman and his coworkers were even more quiescent than the Chinese infants. When lifted erect and pulled forward they were less inclined to swing their legs in a walking motion; when put in a sitting position, their backs curved; and when placed on their stomachs, they made fewer attempts to crawl. It has been conventional to ascribe the passivity of Navaho children to the practice of cradleboarding, a device that holds the infant tightly in place on the mother's back. But Freedman suggests that the reverse may actually be true: the relative quiescence of Navaho babies, a trait that is apparent from birth onward, allows them to be carried in a confining manner. Cradleboarding represents a workable compromise between cultural invention and infant constitution.[50]

Trolling the critics of sociobiology[edit]

Wilson's hypothetical: Karl Marx and a man-ape — checkmate, Marxists (This is an AI-generated image)

Wilson, believing he has made a convincing case for genetic racial traits, calls skeptics of the hereditarian hypothesis anti-intellectual:

Given that humankind is a biological species, it should come as no shock to find that populations are to some extent genetically diverse in the physical and mental properties underlying social behavior. A discovery of this nature does not vitiate the ideals of Western civilization. We are not compelled to believe in biological uniformity in order to affirm human freedom and dignity. The sociologist Marvin Bressler has expressed this idea with precision: "An ideology that tacitly appeals to biological equality as a condition for human emancipation corrupts the idea of freedom. Moreover, it encourages decent men to tremble at the prospect of 'inconvenient' findings that may emerge in future scientific research. This unseemly anti-intellectualism is doubly degrading because it is probably unnecessary."[50]:50

Then Wilson attempts to wave away concerns over poorly-supported claims that, genetically, Navahos are "quiescent" and Chinese are unemotional, with this:

I will go further and suggest that hope and pride and not despair are the ultimate legacy of genetic diversity, because we are a single species, not two or more, one great breeding system through which genes flow and mix in each generation. Because of that flux, mankind viewed over many generations shares a single human nature within which relatively minor hereditary influences recycle through ever changing patterns, between the sexes and across families and entire populations.[50]:50

Wilson used the handwaving "hope and pride" passage again, in a letter to Steven Rose in Nature in 1980 (emphasis added):

"…I am happy to point out that no justification for racism is to be found in the truly scientific study of the biological basis of social behaviour. As I stated in On Human Nature, "I will go further and suggest that hope and pride and not despair are the ultimate legacy of genetic diversity, because we are a single species, not two or more, one great breeding system through which genes flow and mix in each generation. Because of that flux, mankind viewed over many generations shares a single human nature within which relatively minor hereditary influences recycle through ever changing patterns, between the sexes and across families and entire populations".

If there is a possible hereditary tendency to acquire xenophobia and nationalist feelings, it is a non sequitur to interpret such a hypothesis as an argument in favour of racist ideology. It is more reasonable to assume that a knowledge of such a hereditary basis can lead to the circumvention of destructive behaviour such as racism, just as a knowledge of the hereditary basis of haemoglobin chemistry and insulin production can lead to the amelioration of their pathological variants.

I now call on Professor Rose to consider these and similar arguments raised in my writings. It is my hope that he will not confine himself, as he has in the past, to arguments that link sociobiology to racism and thus to continue to abet the very misuse which he piously claims to deplore.[60]

Wilson, waxing pious himself, is shocked that Rose would suggest that sociobiology could possibly be used to argue for racist ideology. Seven years later Wilson would be encouraging Rushton's racialist project with "Press ahead!"

Wilson's hypotheticals[edit]

Wilson finishes the chapter by trolling his archenemies at the time, theologians and Marxists, with hypothetical scenarios.

To understand the enormous significance of this biological unity, imagine our moral distress if australopithecine man-apes had survived to the present time, halfway in intelligence between chimpanzees and human beings, forever genetically separated from both, evolving just behind us in language and the higher faculties of reason. What would be our obligation to them? What would the theologians say — or the Marxists, who might see in them the ultimate form of an oppressed class? Should we divide the world, guide their mental evolution to the human level, and establish a two-species dominion based on a treaty of intellectual and technological parity? Should we make certain they rose no higher? But even worse, imagine our predicament if we coexisted with a mentally superior human species, say Homo superbus, who regarded us, the minor sibling species Homo sapiens, as the moral problem.[50]:50-51

What was Wilson's point with this? That Homo sapiens are all the same species, and Maxists would be presented with an insoluble quandary for how to incorporate other species of human into their theories? It seems certain that any political group would struggle with the implications of "man-apes." So why single out Marxists, other than because one of Wilson's most influential critics, Richard Lewontin was an avowed Marxist?

The awards and honors kept coming: 2010 press conference, E. O. Wilson and Harrison Ford announcing the PEN/E.O. Wilson Award for Literary Science Writing. As of September 2023 PEN has retained Wilson's name.[61]

The hypotheticals are even more interesting, knowing as we do now, that nine years later Wilson would cheer Rushton's application of Wilson's own r/K selection model to humans. Rushton's claim was that White people and Black people were essentially different species with differently-evolved reproduction strategies.

Pulitzer Prize[edit]

And once again, Wilson would achieve acclaim from his contemporaries for promoting the hereditarian hypothesis, this time a Pulitzer Prize.[62] The Pulitzer jury consisted of three white men. One, John Barkham (writer).Wikipedia, grew up in apartheid-era South Africa, and Larry Swindell grew up in Jim Crow Texas.

Wilson saw his Pulitzer Prize as a triumph over his critics:

I think that it’s fair to say the work I produced was the founding book of evolutionary psychology, although it wasn’t until the next decade that the term evolutionary psychology began to be used. But the book, On Human Nature, in 1978 won a Pulitzer Prize and, as we say in a Southeastern Conference football game when our team scores on the opponent’s field, "That has a way of quieting the crowd."[63]

The water incident[edit]

The month after Human Nature was published, at the February 1978 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science it seems certain that E. O. Wilson was involuntarily hydrated. But the gender and quantity of hydrator(s), hydrator utterance(s) and the volume, type and quantity of container and water temperature vary from one recounting to another.

Richard Dawkins, who claimed to be an eyewitness to the event, called the hydrator a "bearded man" who "tipped water over Wilson" and said that there was also cup-throwing:

At the same conference, Wilson was on a panel together with Stephen Jay Gould, David Barash, and others. I witnessed the Marxist-inspired rabble as they rushed the platform chanting their puerile doggerel: "Wilson, Wilson, you can’t hide. We charge you with genocide." A bearded man tipped water over Wilson, and somebody else threw a cup of water, which was parried by Barash.[64]

Carl Zimmer said, "A woman dumped ice water" while shouting.

In her book “Defenders of the Truth” (2000), Dr. Segerstråle wrote that Dr. Wilson’s critics had shown "an astounding disregard" for what he had written, arguing that they had used Sociobiology as an opportunity to promote their own agendas. When Dr. Wilson attended a 1978 debate about sociobiology, protesters rushed the stage shouting, "Racist Wilson, you can't hide, we charge you with genocide!" A woman dumped ice water on him, shouting, "Wilson, you are all wet!"[65]

Michael Shermer, apparently using the same source as Zimmer, said it was a cup of water[66], but back in 2000 Shermer said it was "a jug of ice-water."[67]

But according to evolutionary psychologist Helen Fisher,[68] "demonstrators" hydrated while chanting, and it was a pitcher of ice water.[69]

Kevin Drum, former Mother Jones writer,[70] and defender of Quillette[71] used the incident to tar "liberals" (he does not like liberals[72]), while declaring victory for sociobiology. Drum appeared to use the same source as Zimmer and Shermer, but in his telling it was "some protesters" who did the hydrating. He also claimed that Ullica Segerstråle's Defenders of the Truth was "the definitive work on the sociobiology wars."[73]

Alice Dreger claimed several members of the “International Committee Against Racism” did the hydrating.[74]

Writing in The New Atlantis, Whitley Kaufman said it was a cup of water and that the "full pitcher of ice water" was an embellishment. Kaufman also scoffs at the idea that Wilson could be a racist, then mentions that Wilson supported eugenics:

It is in this context that one must see the controversy that arose when Wilson began to revive the effort to advance moral claims based on biological science. Most memorably, protesters rushed the stage at a February 1978 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science just as Wilson was about to begin a talk. They chanted "racist Wilson you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide" and threw a cup of water at him (later embellished in legend into a full pitcher of ice water). Unfazed, Wilson went on with his remarks, and in later years referred to the incident with pride, depicting himself as a scientist willing to pursue the truth despite public vilification and physical attacks, a twentieth-century Galileo.

The charge that Wilson is a racist or misogynist is of course utterly unfounded; to the contrary, he is the quintessential liberal humanist. Just the same, in his 1978 Pulitzer Prize-winning book On Human Nature, Wilson voiced support for a renewed program of eugenics. While he conceded that given our limited understanding of human genetics we should at present aim to preserve the entire gene pool, he maintained that in the future, when we have "almost unimaginably greater knowledge of human heredity," we may be able to institute a "democratically contrived eugenics."[75]

Eyewitness David Hull wrote:

I must also mention the most famous incident of all. In 1978, at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, both Segerstråle and I attended a session on sociobiology at which Wilson was to present a paper. As he began his presentation, a dozen or so members of the International Committee Against Racism marched up onto the stage, chanting: "Racist Wilson you can't hide, we charge you with genocide!" A woman then poured water over Wilson's head. How much water is a matter of conjecture. Usually we are told it was a pitcher of water. Segerstråle remembers a jug. I am sure that it was a small paper cup. One bit of evidence that supports my memory of the incident is that Wilson was able to mop up the water with a single handkerchief. Such are the problems of eye-witness reports.[76]

The only scientist in modern times to be physically attacked for an idea[edit]

Historical reenactment

Whoever did the hydrating and whatever the quantity, E. O. Wilson loved that story and brought it up during interviews in his later years, saying that he was the only scientist in modern times to be physically attacked for an idea.[77]

In a video excerpt from the E. O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation Wilson says: "I got (water) dumped on me, I said to myself immediately: "This is interesting, and also it's a bit of history to reflect on later. I believe I'm going to be able to claim that I was the only scientist in modern times to be physically attacked for an idea."[78]

Wilson liked it so much, he used that water in a Great Man of Science pissing match with James WatsonWikipedia famous for co-discovering DNA and infamous for his bigoted public comments.[79][80] Robert KrulwichWikipedia was surprised:

And even later, when I had, I think that I can describe them in the most generous possible terms, the radical left, after me, because they believe that great ideas like there's biological human nature were outrageous. And I was physically attacked. I had water dumped on me at a triple A-S meeting. And I loved it because I knew I was making history. I was the only scientist in modern times to be physically attacked because of an idea. Top that Jim.


Come on, you don't really — when the water poured over your head you thought "got it."


Yeah? [81][82]

Wilson often mentioned the leftist or Marxist affiliation of his two most prominent critics: the paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science Stephen Jay Gould. and the evolutionary biologist, mathematician, geneticist, and social commentator Richard Lewontin,Wikipedia and even presented the controversy as sociobiology vs. Marxist philosophy.[83] But many of the critics of sociobiology were not Marxists, and their followers had nothing to do with cups, jugs or buckets of water. In Naturalist Wilson recounts:

Then, as the INCAR leader harangued the audience, a young woman behind me picked up a pitcher of water and dumped the contents on my head. The demonstrators chanted, “Wilson, you’re all wet!” In a little over two minutes they left the stage and took their seats. No one asked them to leave the premises, no police were called, and no action was taken against them later. After the symposium, several stayed behind to chat with members of the audience.

As I dried myself off with my handkerchief and a paper towel someone handed me, Alland, in possession of the microphone again, expressed his regret to me for the incident. The audience then gave me a prolonged standing ovation. Of course they did, I thought. What else could they do? They might be next. Before I could proceed with my brief lecture, other members of the panel rose to condemn the INCAR action. Steve Gould seemed to be speaking to the demonstrators when he quoted Lenin on the inappropriateness of violence for mere radical posturing, as opposed to the attainment of worthy political goals. Gould referred to the AAAS incident, using Lenin’s words, as an "infantile disorder" of socialism. In that he was correct. It was the grown-up intellectuals I knew I had to worry about.

How did I feel during the incident? Calm — dare I say icy cold, as I let the protestors’ anger wash over me? That evening I joined Napoleon Chagnon for dinner and then debated Marvin Harris on human sociobiology at the Smithsonian Institution, with another large audience in attendance — no takeover by radicals this time.[12]

Anthropologist Marvin Harris,Wikipedia proponent of the research strategy cultural materialism,Wikipedia was not a Marxist, and was a strong critic of human sociobiology.[84] and its descendant, evolutionary psychology[85] But Wilson almost never mentions the "no-takeover" debate with Harris, probably because it would not support the sociobiologist vs. water-flinging Marxist narrative that Wilson preferred.

All of this would seem to be molehill mountaineering by Wilson, except that it is counterfactual. Was Wilson really "the only scientist in modern times to be physically attacked for an idea"? First, one would have to define "modern times" in a rather peculiar way, it would have to postdate the Nazi persecution of Jewish scientists (1930s), the Stalinist purges of Soviet geneticists,[86]:61 and the persecution of scientists during the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).[87] Even with that date cutfoff, could Wilson be considered the only such scientist? At the time of the incident, perhaps, but certainly not in his frequent retelling of the story: the Unabomber targeted scientists (among others) during his bombing campaign (1978-1995).

Wilson to Lumsden to Rushton[edit]

Wilson recounted that it was obvious to him that "human sociobiology would remain in trouble, both intellectually and politically, until it incorporated culture into its analyses." And so he turned to Charles Lumsden,Wikipedia who was at that time a theoretical physicist. "His interests had lately turned to biology, and he saw great opportunity in the analysis of social behavior."[12]

With Lumsden, Wilson wrote two books, Genes, Mind and Culture: The Coevolutionary Process in 1981[88] and Promethean Fire: Reflections on the Origin of Mind[89] in 1983.

Biologist P. D. MedwarWikipedia slammed Genes, Mind and Culture in The New York Review of Books, writing:

In reading this book I grieved at how very far it fell short of Wilson’s ambitious claim in his principal work on the subject — that sociobiology had become a branch of biology of the same stature as, for example, molecular biology. Indeed it has become nothing of the kind. The present work reminds me of a bad political manifesto — one that loses more votes than it wins. Certainly it has lost mine. It makes me sorry, too, for my sociologist friends.

The study of animal behavior in the style that has come to be known as ethology is genuinely helpful to psychologists of human behavior, if only to show that human behaviors or proclivities such as aggression (real of simulated), sexual rivalry, showing off, play, and the use of tools, so far from being characteristically human, have deep evolutionary roots and in that light may be easier to understand. I do not believe any such claim can be made for biology vis-à-vis sociology, and have yet to be convinced that biology can throw any new light upon the structure and behavior of human societies or upon the problems to which they give rise.

I find myself very much in sympathy with the criticisms of sociobiology explicitly expressed by Kenneth Bock. As one reviewer summarized Bock’s conclusion: “The universals of biology and genetic theory cannot account for recent history or the differences between cultures.[90]

Continuing the gene-culture theory, Lumsden co-authored a paper with J. Philippe Rushton and Christina H. Littlefield, Gene-Culture Coevolution of Complex Social Behavior: Human Altruism and Mate Choice.[91] The paper includes the line "Communicated by E. O. Wilson, June 1986" which means it was submitted on behalf of the authors by Wilson, as a member of the National Academy of Sciences. The Academy ended that type of submission in 2010.[92] Communicated submissions bypassed the normal peer-review process, and instead relied on the authority of the member of the NAS who 'communicates' the paper to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).[93][note 2]

Sociobiology to evolutionary psychology[edit]

Steven Pinker affirms his belief in the biological reality of race

In the afterward of the 2006 edition of his autobiography, Wilson explained what happened to sociobiology:

…the twelve years since the original publication of Naturalist have seen many changes in sociobiology, from which I have received, as its nominal founder, both anguish and satisfaction. Applied to ants and other animals, it has flourished. Applied to human social behavior it has also proliferated, but under the name "evolutionary psychology," now an academic subject with a life of its own. Evolutionary psychology has generated some excellent research and much else that is less than distinguished. Overall it has created an industry of popular books, with substantial combined impact, and become part of the popular culture.[12]:373

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "The 'descendants' of sociobiology include human behavioral ecology, evolutionary psychology (Cosmides and Tooby, 1987) and more recently, dual inheritance theory (Boyd and Richerson, 1985; Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman, 1981). These projects as a group are now sometimes referred to as the "evolutionary social sciences" (Smith et al., 2001).[95]

In a 1998 interview in Skeptic magazine, Wilson discussed evolutionary psychology versus sociobiology with Frank Miele,Wikipedia who is "…best known for his advocacy of the concept of race, as well as defending the hereditarian hypotheses in its relation to race and intelligence… While an undergraduate, he became a regular contributor to Mankind Quarterly and collaborated with Donald A. Swan and A. James Gregor. He has also worked as a research assistant and consultant for Richard Lynn."

Wilson: When you recognize that the term Evolutionary Psychology is the same thing as Human Sociobiology, I would say it’s now 10-1, in favor of Sociobiology.

Skeptic: Then why the need to change the name to Evolutionary Psychology? (For an introduction to the field see Miele, 1996a.)

Wilson: This is something of a puzzle. Evolutionary Psychology is the same subject as Human Sociobiology, but it’s been picked up because it contains the word "psychology." Most of the investigators in that area obtain employment in departments of psychology or anthropology. It would be harder to obtain one of those job slots by identifying yourself as a biologist of any kind.

Skeptic: Why is that? Political correctness?

Wilson: No. I was going to come to that in a moment. The reason is the classic division of academic departments. The psychology department wants to cover all fields of psychology. So it’s a little easier to get a position in the psychology department if you bill yourself as some kind of psychologist, rather than some kind of biologist. However, since Evolutionary Psychology came along after the Sociobiology Wars of the 1970s, it’s a little bit more politically correct. [96]

In Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer, Cosmides and Tooby wrote "there is no such thing as 'race'".[97] The reason that evolutionary psychology was "a little bit more politically correct" than sociobiology is likely because its leading proponents removed discussion of racial differences from their research strategy.

Steve Sailer, promoter of sociobiology under the name human biodiversity, concurs. In his discussion of Steven Pinker's changing views he said, "He started out completely under the spell of Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, the founders of evolutionary psychology, which has succeeded on politically-correct campuses by stripping from Edward O. Wilson's discipline of sociobiology its emphasis on explaining human differences.[98] By "human differences", Sailer means race. And Sailer appears to be correct about Pinker, who is often referred to as an "evolutionary psychologist."[99] Pinker believes the opposite of Cosmides and Tooby, tweeting in 2013 "Every geneticist knows that the "Race doesn't exist" dogma is a convenient PC 1/4-truth" while providing a link to a New York Times Science column by Nicholas Wade.[100] Pinker appears to have switched from evolutionary psychology to E. O. Wilson-style sociobiology.


Wilson died December 26, 2021 and the tributes poured in as if from many buckets of water. A KQED tribute called him "…a beloved professor at Harvard University for 46 years, throughout which he inspired a generation of aspiring scientists to care for the earth as he did."[101] Carl Zimmer wrote:

At first, "Sociobiology" was showered with praise and attention. An article about it landed on the front page of The New York Times on May 28, 1975. In Scientific American, the Princeton biologist John Tyler Bonner called it "an extraordinary beginning." Dr. Bonner wrote that Dr. Wilson "has identified and brought together in one tome all those elements that will be the ingredients of sociobiology in the future."

Then, Dr. Wilson later recalled in his memoir, "Everything spun out of control."

Dr. Wilson got in trouble for extending sociobiology to humans. He had invited his readers to consider how human nature might be shaped by evolutionary pressures. He warned them that this would not be easy: It would be hard to tease apart the effects of human culture from those of natural selection. Making matters worse, no one at the time had linked any genetic variant to any particular human behavior. “There is a need for a discipline of anthropological genetics,” he wrote.

Nevertheless, Dr. Wilson argued that our species had a propensity to behave in certain ways and form certain social structures. He called that propensity human nature.

Natural selection could help explain psychology, in other words. Human aggression, for example, may have been adaptive for early humans.

“The lesson for man is that personal happiness has very little to do with all this,” he wrote. “It is possible to be unhappy and very adaptive.”

Dr. Wilson’s critics ignored these caveats. In a letter to The New York Review of Books, some denounced sociobiology as an attempt to reinvigorate tired old theories of biological determinism — theories, they claimed, that "provided an important basis for the enactment of sterilization laws and restrictive immigration laws by the United States between 1910 and 1930 and also for the eugenics policies which led to the establishment of gas chambers in Nazi Germany."

In her book “Defenders of the Truth” (2000), Dr. Segerstrale wrote that Dr. Wilson’s critics had shown “an astounding disregard” for what he had written, arguing that they had used Sociobiology as an opportunity to promote their own agendas. When Dr. Wilson attended a 1978 debate about sociobiology, protesters rushed the stage shouting, "Racist Wilson, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide!" A woman dumped ice water on him, shouting, "Wilson, you are all wet!"

After drying himself off with paper towels, Dr. Wilson went ahead and gave his speech.[65]

National Geographic took the obituary as an opportunity to proclaim victory for sociobiology:

Scientists on the left, such as Wilson’s Harvard colleague Stephen Jay Gould, attacked his ideas, flinging charges of racism and sexism. Wilson even had water poured on his head at a scientific meeting.

"That was so radical to people who wanted to believe" otherwise, said Peter Raven, a leading botanist and conservationist, National Geographic Explorer, and 2018 Hubbard Medalist. As the longtime director of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, Raven worked with Wilson for decades. “Ed was attacked very viciously, but he was right.

Wilson would later admit to political naiveté and insist he was misunderstood. Still, he lived long enough to see his ideas vindicated and accepted by the scientific community.[102]

Nature said: "His accessible writing extended his impact far beyond academia and inspired countless readers to follow a career in science. He did this while always retaining the kindness and generosity of a true ‘southern gentleman’.[103]

Anthropologist Michael Balter commented: "Nearly all the obituaries of Wilson emphasize his roots in Alabama and the segregated University of Alabama, and depict him as a southern gentleman scientist — without any examination of the possibility that the prejudices of growing up in the south might have left their mark on Wilson’s psyche…"[104]

The complicated legacy[edit]

In the tiny minority, Monica R. McLemore published a critical piece about Wilson in 2021 in Scientific American, "The Complicated Legacy of E. O. Wilson".[105] McLemore wrote:

Second, the application of the scientific method matters: what works for ants and other nonhuman species is not always relevant for health and/or human outcomes. For example, the associations of Black people with poor health outcomes, economic disadvantage and reduced life expectancy can be explained by structural racism, yet Blackness or Black culture is frequently cited as the driver of those health disparities. Ant culture is hierarchal and matriarchal, based on human understandings of gender. And the descriptions and importance of ant societies existing as colonies is a component of Wilson’s work that should have been critiqued. Context matters.

McLemore was referring here to Lewontin's "False Metaphor" criticism of sociobiology.

The hereditarians were outraged:

  • Razib Khan wrote a rebuttal and got his friends to sign it.[106]
  • Steve Sailer and his racist fans were mad[107]
  • Steven Pinker tweeted his outrage with a link to Razib Khan's rebuttal.[108]
  • Jerry Coyne griped "asinine hit job".[109]
  • Michael Shermer tweeted "what a calumny against one of the least racist..."[110]
  • Writing for the far-right American Conservative, Rod Dreher cried "How does garbage like this get approved at a publication like Scientific American?"[111]
  • Lee Jussim railed, "Silencing by the left is a myth." Not counting the ridiculous attempts to silence E.O. Wilson for his groundbreaking work on the evolution of behavior." and linked to Khan's rebuttal.[112]

The Wilson Papers[edit]

Wilson's alignment with Rushton[edit]

In its obituary of Rushton, The Globe and Mail describes Wilson's influence on Rushton, including the political implications of sociobiology: "The publication a few years later of E.O. Wilson's book Sociobiology supplied a theoretical template for his shifting worldview by describing the biological roots of behaviours previously thought to be determined by cultural influences. In any analysis of life forms, evolution now became the beginning of understanding. Well-meant social programs, in this deterministic analysis, weren't likely to change or challenge more deep-seated genetic influences."[113]

The Peter Thiel-funded Big Think[114] ran an obituary of Rushton written by Satoshi Kanazawa that called Rushton a "Modern-Day Galileo."[115]

Well before Wilson's death, his alignment with Rushton and other promoters of race pseudoscience had been discussed.

In 1991, thirty years before Wilson's death, in A mirror to nature: reflections on science, scientists, and society, Peter Knudtson made the connection between Wilson and Rushton:[116]:178-179

But Rushton’s mild-mannered demeanor reflects no lack of confidence. He tends to speak about his racial hypothesis with a sense of absolute conviction that sometimes borders on romanticism. He is fond of comparing his own lonely public stand on the evolution of race differences to the great Italian astronomer Galileo’s courageous defense, to the Inquisition in the seventeenth century, of the Copernican notion of a sun-centered system of planetary motion — eventually, of course, vindicated by science. "It has to do with science; it has to do with absolute knowledge," Rushton said, leaning forward excitedly to emphasize his words. "I mean, you can tie Copernicus to the stake,” he said, momentarily confusing his heroes, “but that doesn’t change the facts. Even if I were to stop my work and do something else, that doesn’t change the facts."

That confidence also extends to Rushton’s assessment of what he considers to be his own singular contribution to the science of human differences. When I asked him to summarize what he views as the true significance of his racial hypothesis, he replied proudly, "Mine is the first scientific theory of the evolution of racial differences in behavior." Questioned further, he added, "Nobody, as far as I know, applies population biology to human differences. Period. I don’t know of anyone else who is doing what I'm doing."

In this last assertion, Rushton is not of course literally correct. The entire discipline known as sociobiology, for example, is based on the systematic exploration of evolutionary differences in populations — human and nonhuman. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, On Human Nature, published in 1978, Edward O. Wilson, the distinguished Harvard entomologist and one of the field’s most illustrious pioneers, describes sociobiology as "the extension of population biology and evolutionary theory to social organization," and its ultimate aim as "the uncompromising application of evolutionary theory to all aspects of human existence" (including, of course, many of the same sorts of traits Rushton is studying).

But Rushton is justified in drawing attention to his rather exceptional willingness to focus so exclusively on matters of race. For the most part mainstream sociobiology, during more than a decade of bitter battles over all sorts of mainstream issues, has largely refrained from applying its evolutionary analyses to possible racial differences in intelligence and other value-laden human qualities. In this, E. O. Wilson himself has been a model of scientific decorum. He has, to be sure, stirred up his own share of controversy for openly speculating, for example, on the possible evolutionary roots of everything in human society from gender roles to homosexuality. (He has even, I was surprised to discover, publicly pondered the possible "evolutionary value" of genocide, which, as he wrote with absolutely stunning scientific dispassion in his book Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, possesses "the interesting property" that it "need take place only once every few generations to direct evolution.") But Wilson has also, it must be emphasized, won international respect for the admirable scientific rigor of much of his evolutionary analysis, and — unlike Rushton, whom he knows personally — has publicly managed to carefully sidestep, for the most part, sociobiological topics concerning race.

In his book The Biology of Race, the biologist James King offered this insightful observation: in the entire index to Wilson’s classic Sociobiology text, the term “race” does not appear even once. When I asked Wilson why, his reply was unequivocal: "I, like most people, wish to be extremely cautious about the public airing of scientific opinions that impinge in any way on minority status or racial variations. I think we have to be super careful in that regard. You can quote me on that!" And, after reviewing references to his ideas in a draft of this article, he eloquently underscored his misgivings about such public debate by comparing the challenge of my journalistic endeavor to "trying to examine the inside of a powder keg with lighted matches."

Letter from E. O. Wilson encouraging Rushton's racialist use of the r/K selection theory 1987

And then later Knudtson wrote:

It would also be naive to ignore the fact that there exists a measure of scientific sympathy — for the most part publicly silent — for Rushton’s evolutionary thinking on race. Charles Lumsden sweepingly referred to this group as an "invisible collection of Rushton’s reluctant supporters." Although it may come as a painful surprise to some in the scientific community, one of them happens to be none other than E. O. Wilson (although, to my knowledge, this significant fact has, at this writing, yet to be reported in the Canadian media). "I think Phil is an honest and capable researcher," Wilson told me in a cautiously worded statement. "The basic reasoning by Rushton is solid evolutionary reasoning; that is, it is logically sound. If he had seen some apparent geographic variation for a non-human species — a species of sparrow or sparrow hawk, for example — no one would have batted an eye."[116]:190

Publication recommendation by E. O. Wilson for Rushton's work 1988

In 2019, Gavin Evans wrote:

Wilson, a self-described 'social conservative' has spoken of his despair at such accusations. 'I came from the Old South. I was raised as a racist,' he said. 'I mean, we all were. It was only in my teens that I began to change. But here, if you were called racist — well, in the Seventies — it was like a death sentence.' Despite this protestation, Wilson was not beyond giving open support to race science. In 1994, he backed the work of the overtly racist psychologist J. Philippe Rushton, who had written a book arguing that blacks were inherently less intelligent. In 2014, Wilson provided a gushing back cover endorsement for a book by the popular science author Nicholas Wade, who explained just about every cultural stereotype, including Jews being good capitalists and Africans being tribalists. [117]

In Undark Magazine, Michael Shulson noted:

close attention to Wilson’s work and public statements, some scholars said, already provided ample evidence that he was sympathetic to ideas that most biologists now consider not just morally questionable, but scientifically unfounded.

In 2014, Wilson gave a warm blurb to then-New York Times science journalist Nicholas Wade's book "A Troublesome Inheritance." The book argues that Black people may be, on average, more impulsive and less hardworking than White or East Asian people, and that basic differences in human society — why Haiti is poor, for example, and European countries wealthy — are attributable to genetic differences among groups. In reviews, debates, and public statements, experts in human evolution pilloried the book for misrepresenting the science. A notable exception was Wilson, who, in his blurb, praised Wade for exemplifying "the virtues of truth without fear" and celebrating human genetic diversity.[118]

In spite of all the evidence of Wilson's racialist beliefs, the mainstream press and the world at large did not want to hear it and instead adored Wilson as a Great Man of Science[119][120][121][122]

And then one glorious morning…[123]

Science for the People[edit]

According to the Science for the People archives page: "In 1969, a group of scientists and activists committed to the practice of science to end oppression and violence began publishing Science for the People, a flagship publication of the radical science movement for 20 years." The publication relaunched in 2019.[124]

All claims about "the water incident" that mention a group affiliation, mention the International Committee Against Racism,Wikipedia but the Nature obituary for Wilson claimed it was "'a group of protestors from the organization Science for the People.Wikipedia"[103] This is likely a reflection on Nature's journalistic standards, as there is no evidence for its claim. In 1995, Wilson wrote an article, "Science and ideology", in which he recounted the water incident, and while he certainly does not like Science for the People, he does not say they were the hydrators.[125]

Science for the People was undeniably a harsh critic of Wilson and sociobiology. In the November 6, 1978 issue of Science for the People, the unsigned introduction to a book review for Wilson's Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, titled "Sociobiology - Skewed Synthesis" says:

Many of us in Science for the People have been involved in the struggles to expose the genetic explanations for social and political problems, including the Jensen-Herrnstein-Shockley propaganda on IQ, genetics and race (1) and the myth of the XYY male (2). We do this because we can see how such theories are used to oppress working people and minority groups and to spread an ideology which blames the victim of social and economic inequities for society's problems. In a similar fashion, the theories put forth by the sociobiologists and their predecessors help to support maintenance of the status quo and to convince people that revolutionary changes in social relationships (e.g. class structure and sex roles) are impossible. One way we see this done is by the rapid incorporation of biological determinist views into school curricula. The indoctrination begins very early on. If the views of human nature put forth by the sociobiologists are not combatted, they will be appearing very soon in new biology texts.[126]

"Anti-racism is the last refuge of scoundrels"[edit]

On February 1, 2022 the relaunched Science for the People published an article by Stacy Farina, Assistant Professor of Biology at Howard University and Matthew Gibbons a health researcher, about what they had found in the papers that Wilson had donated:

At the request of the Library of Congress, Wilson donated much of the contents of his office — letters, reprints, conference proceedings, etc. — to the national archive. The Wilson Papers comprises hundreds of boxes of documents and numerous digital recordings. We started exploring these holdings in September 2021, out of our broad interest in the Sociobiology debate. We did not intend to investigate scientific racism. However, the four folders labeled “Rushton, John Philippe” caught our attention. And in light of the controversy initiated by the Scientific American op-ed, we hope to share them and provide additional context for understanding Wilson’s legacy and the broader legacy of scientific racism.

One of the most striking documents is an impassioned letter from Wilson to Professor Case Vanderwolf, a neuroscientist in Rushton’s department at the University of Western Ontario. Vanderwolf’s department was in the process of defending their decision to sanction Rushton for scholarly misconduct, including denying Rushton [a] salary increase and disallowing him from teaching. This was at the height of Rushton’s infamy, sparking student protests and international media coverage. E. O. Wilson wrote a strong letter of support for Rushton that harshly criticized the Department of Psychology and University of Western Ontario with dramatic flair.

"Dear Professor Vanderwolf: First rule for one who finds himself in a hole: stop digging. The University of Western Ontario is in a deep hole, being on the verge of violating academic freedom in a way that will give it notoriety of historic proportions." Wilson’s letter begins, dated July 3, 1990 (box 143, folder 9). This was only months after Rushton made appearances on American talk shows by Geraldo Rivera and Phil Donahue to defend his claims about racial differences, fueling the broad notoriety that became characteristic of his late career.

Wilson’s letter continues, "To be sure, you and Professor Cain have found fault with Professor Rushton’s writings on race, but some noted specialists in human genetics and cognitive psychology have judged them to be sound and significant." Wilson asks Vanderwolf to consider a poll that "found that a large minority of specialists of human genetics and testing believe in a partial hereditary basis for black-white average IQ differences." Further, Wilson states that the National Association of Scholars (a right-wing advocacy group) is soon to publish an analysis "concluding that academic freedom is the issue in this case and that Rushton's academic freedom is threatened." The National Association of Scholars remains actively involved today in fighting affirmative action in higher education admissions and against the teaching of critical race theory.[1]

Later, Farina and Gibbons commented, "Wilson pontificated that arguing for equity among groups of people was ideologically similar to racism, adding the evocative phrase my way of putting it would be that anti-racism is the last refuge of scoundrels.

The New York Review of Books: Ideology as Biology[edit]

Mark Borello, Director of the Program in the History of Science and Technology and an Associate Professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Minnesota[127] and David Sepkoski, Thomas M. Siebel Chair in History of Science at the University of Illinois[128] published an article in The New York Review of Books, "Ideology as Biology":

Rushton was arguing that “r/K selection theory” applies to different human races. This model was developed in the 1960s by Wilson and the population biologist Robert MacArthur to characterize distinct evolutionary reproductive strategies among different species of animals. It distinguishes species that produce large numbers of offspring (or those that are "r-selected") with little subsequent parental investment (for example, many insects) from those that produce few offspring (or are "K-selected") with greater parental investment (elephants, humans). Rushton’s intent was rather to demonstrate that "behavioral genetics seems to suggest that r/K relationships are heritable" among humans, and that, furthermore, different human "races" have different strategies: specifically, that Black people are r-selected, while whites are K-selected. Moreover, he carefully explained to Wilson that this model accounted for racial disparities in IQ, postulating that Black people are not selected for high intelligence because their selection strategy favors, essentially, quantity over quality.

As an author of the r/K model, one would have expected Wilson to have been outraged at Rushton’s proposal, which implied, as many nineteenth-century scientists did, that human “races” constituted different species—a view no reputable biologist, including Wilson, would have publicly defended. But Wilson immediately dashed off a letter to Rushton applauding his application of the r/K model as “one of the most original and interesting [ideas] I’ve ever encountered in psychology,” adding that the work was “courageous.” “In this country the whole issue would be clouded by personal charges of racism to the point that rational discussion would be almost impossible,” he wrote, urging Rushton to “press ahead!”[129]

E. O. Wilson Foundation response[edit]

Recently, new inquiry into the papers of E.O. Wilson (1929 – 2021) reveals his correspondence (1978 – 1995) with a discredited racist psychology professor, the late J. Philippe Rushton. The majority of Rushton’s research in this arena has not withstood peer review, and therefore is not published. In 2002, Rushton left academia to head the Pioneer Fund – a nonprofit started to study hereditary and human differences, categorized by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a Hate Group. Professor Wilson’s correspondence with Rushton has not been fully investigated by the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation; however, we acknowledge and recognize Rushton’s work has been labeled as racist and was withdrawn from several academic publications. We acknowledge E.O. Wilson’s correspondence with and apparent support of Rushton’s career is hurtful and harmful.

The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, its Board of Directors and staff reject Professor Wilson’s support of Rushton. We acknowledge the insidius eoffects of systemic racism. Such structural racism, whether operating intentionally or unintentionally, bestows unfair race-based advantages and deleterious, even malicious effects on others. Professor Wilson’s apparent defense of Rushton’s line of inquiry without examining the implications of the harm it could cause to people is one such effect.[130]

Hereditarian response[edit]

David Sepkoski responds to Pinker's criticism of his work
David Sepkoski responds to Pinker's criticism of his work

Unsurprisingly, once the correspondence between Wilson and Rushton was published, hereditarians claimed that publicizing Wilson's warm relationship with Rushton was unfair to Wilson. Steven Pinker called it "slander". David Sepkoski, co-author of The New York Review of Books article on Wilson, had a strong reaction, calling Pinker "this moron — and I do mean that in the medical sense."[131] Sepkoski pointed out that far from invading Wilson's privacy, as Pinker implied, Wilson had voluntarily shared his Rushton correspondence with the public.

Sepkoski had run-ins with Michael Shermer, who even defended Rushton against charges of racism, tweeting "Of course you think Rushton was a racist. I thought so too until I looked at the evidence."[132] Demonstrating how extremely "race realist" or some might simply say "racist" Michael Shermer is.

Later Sepkoski accused Shermer of conducting a smear campaign, tweeting:

I just learned that Michael Shermer is conducting a smear campaign against me by contacting scientists and misrepresenting my arguments. This is ironic given that I'm in possession of dozens of letters documenting Wilson doing the same against his sociobiology opponents.[133]

Sepkoski also had an unpleasant run-in with Alice Dreger, who had tweeted, "A sad day in the history of science when we've gone from problematic "great man" intellectual histories to problematic "evil man" intellectual histories." [134]

Sepkoski responded: "This is the same Alice Dreger who sat with Wilson for an interview in which she freely editorialized about Wilson's "mistreatment," suggesting that I'm being overly personal in my work. And tweeted this. (link to Quillette)[135] Sepkoski included a tweet by Dreger that says: "Ed Wilson was not just a scientific great, he was a moral great. Here are a few pages from "Galileo's Middle Finger," excerpting the conversations I had with him about being attacked.[136]

In reference to Jerry Coyne's response, Sepkoski wrote: "Ah, now Jerry Coyne is parroting Shermer's lies and straw men about our essay on Wilson. Apparently "truth" and "evidence" only matter when they don't make you uncomfortable."[137]

Ullica Segerstråle[edit]

In response to an inquiry from Undark Magazine for its article on the new revelations of Wilson, Segerstråle said she "challenges characterizations of Wilson as a racist thinker, and argues that his critics often failed to engage with the actual substance of his work. 'I stand by my general analysis in that book regarding the thinking and behavior of both E.O. Wilson and Science for the People,'"

Sepkoski had discovered something about Segerstråle's relationship with Wilson among Wilson's letters, "I would point out that another feature of the Wilson archive are letters showing that Wilson was coaching Segerstråle as she was writing her dissertation and book, with a lot of back-and-forth personally attacking Gould and Lewontin. I do not regard this as an impartial source."[138]

Wilson-Rushton Correspondence timeline[edit]

This timeline was assembled based on the Science for the People article,[1] and an image of a Wilson letter (August 25, 1987) that was shared by David Sepkoski on Twitter.[139]

August 25, 1987[edit]

Wilson to Rushton, in reference to Rushton's theory that Black people are "r-selected" using Wilson's own r/K concept, which Rushton used to justify his belief that Black people evolved to be less intelligent than white people.

Dear Phil:

Being still up to my nostrils in the ant book, tropical conservation, etc. I still haven't given your r/K paper the attention it deserves. I will, the idea is one of the most original and interesting I've ever encountered in psychology. And courageous, so that you are fortunate to be working in Canada. In this country the whole issue would be clouded by personal charges of racism to the point that rational discussion would be almost impossible, no matter what the evidence. Press ahead!

Incidentally, the quotation I gave was from Enrico Fermi, not Robin Fox, although it is the kind of thing Fox says very well.

With warm regards,

E. O. Wilson

September 1987[edit]

Wilson explains to Rushton why he can't sponsor an article on racial differences.

You have my support in many ways, but for me to sponsor an article on racial differences in the PNAS would be counterproductive for both of us… I have a couple of colleagues here, Gould and Lewontin, who would use any excuse to raise the charge again. So I’m the wrong person to sponsor the article, although I’d be glad to referee it for another, less vulnerable member of the National Academy.

December 5, 1989[edit]

Wilson tells Rushton, "your critics simply will not be able to convict you of racism."

I am very heartened by the response of the National Association of Scholars (Academic Questions) to your case… Much as they like, your [Rushton's] critics simply will not be able to convict you of racism, and there will come a day when the more honest among them will rue the day they joined this leftward revival of McCarthyism.

April 4, 1990[edit]

Wilson to the Appeals Committee at the University of Western Ontario to support Rushton’s appeal of his Unsatisfactory rating.

(Rushton’s data and interpretation are) “sound, being adapted in a straightforward way from well documented principles of r-K selection in biology… You may wonder why almost (no other scientists) have published their opinions. The answer is fear of being called racist, which is virtually a death sentence in American adademia if taken seriously. I admit that I myself have tended to avoid the subject of Rushton’s work, out of fear.

July 3, 1990[edit]

Wilson defends Rushton's racialist claims with "some noted specialists in human genetics and cognitive psychology have judged them to be sound and significant".

Dear Professor Vanderwolf:

First rule for one who finds himself in a hole: stop digging. The University of Western Ontario is in a deep hole, being on the verge of violating academic freedom in a way that will give it notoriety of historic proportions… To be sure, you and Professor Cain have found fault with Professor Rushton’s writings on race, but some noted specialists in human genetics and cognitive psychology have judged them to be sound and significant… (a poll) found that a large minority of specialists of human genetics and testing believe in a partial hereditary basis for black-white average IQ differences… (The National Association of Scholars' analysis concludes) that academic freedom is the issue in this case and that Rushton’s academic freedom is threatened…

July 17, 1990[edit]

Rushton expresses appreciation to Wilson for his help in the battle to treat Rushton's views on race as "normal science".

Dear Ed

Vanderwolf has been one of my harshest critics and the letters from you have given him cause to pause, and think… The battle continues, and I am now committed to carrying it to a victory, i.e., allowing genetic and evolutionary perspectives on race to be treated as normal science

Again, my deepest appreciation for it all, With best regards, Phil.

October 18, 1991[edit]

Rushton crows that thanks to Wilson, his rating is now 'Good' in spite of an even greater obsession with race differences:

This year, on July 1, 1991, I received a rating of ‘Good’ despite an even greater percentage of my research being devoted to race differences… despite pickets, demonstrators, and the occasional class disruption. (A book of supportive letters I have compiled) sat in the departmental coffee room for several months and bolstered those colleagues who might otherwise have felt I was too isolated to support. It is uplifting to look at that book and realize the strength of character of those, such as yourself [Wilson], who came forward to articulate principles in aid of so unpopular a cause. I remain immensely grateful for your help.

Wilson's hereditarian legacy[edit]

Wilson's development of sociobiology was part of the hereditarian tradition, often used to maintain the racial status quo in the United States. Wilson was influenced by the arguments of political hereditarians like Richard Herrnstein and tempted by the prospect of achieving fame through publicizing hereditarian arguments.

In Undark Magazine, C. Brandon Ogbunu, Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University writes that with the publication of Sociobiology:

"…Wilson’s dive into the human realm was, in my view, an exercise in the worst kind of carpetbagging, in which an expert uses their large reputation in one arena to justify parachuting into another where they are ignorant or out of their depth. In doing so, Wilson followed, and maybe helped write, a blueprint that continues to influence generations of dumpster fire biological determinists…"[140]

Hereditarian politics[edit]

It is evident that the driving force of hereditarianism in the United States is right-wing politics.

Prominent hereditarians such as Henry Garrett were blatant in their attempts to use "scientific" hereditarian claims to prevent Black and White children from attending the same schools.

In 1970, Arthur Jensen, claiming to be in favor of desegregation while at the same time opposing actual methods of desegregation such as busing, entered the "reasonableness" of the hereditarian hypothesis into the Congressional Record:

"The fact that different racial groups in this country have widely separated geographic origins and have had quite different histories which has subjected them to different selective social and economic pressures make it highly likely that their gene pools differ for some genetically conditioned behavioral characteristics, including intelligence, or abstract reasoning ability. Nearly every anatomical, physiological and biochemical system investigated shows racial differences. Why should the brain be any exception? The reasonableness of the hypothesis that there are racial differences in genetically conditioned behavioral characteristics, including mental abilities, is not confined to the poorly informed but has been expressed in writings and public statements by such eminent geneticists as K. Mather, C. D. Darlington, R. A. Fisher, and Francis Crick, to name a few.[141]

In 1975, Elizabeth Allen and fifteen co-signers sent a letter to The New York Review of Books called "Against Sociobiology" and because they did not discuss the letter with Wilson before publication, Wilson accused them of "vigilantism" that "diminishes the spirit of free inquiry."[142] Wilson would often imply that critics of sociobiology were motivated by politics,[143][144] a claim repeated by Wilson's hereditarian allies such as Nicholas Wade at The New York Times.[145]

Wilson was a defender of Herrnstein, and cited him in Sociobiology. Herrnstein would go on to co-author The Bell Curve with Charles Murray. Thanks to evolutionary psychology, the hereditarian theories taught in colleges and discussed in newspapers during the mid-1980s to mid-1990s avoided the racial implications of the hereditarian assumption. But The Bell Curve, championed by Andrew Sullivan in The New Republic[146] in 1994, changed that.

The American hereditarian assumption[edit]

The Bell Curve began the public revival of race-focused sociobiology that had been tempered by the "race does not exist" creed of the evolutionary psychologists. Murray would continue a well-remunerated career as a well-known hereditarian thanks to the largess of funders like Charles and David Koch, (David died in 2019) and the Bradley Foundation,[147] right up to the present time. Soon Murray would be joined by others, funded by the Kochs and other right-wing racist plutocrats.

All would continue to promote the traditional hereditarian racial assumption in America, which can be boiled down to this:

In spite of 250 years of slavery, followed by more than one hundred years of anti-Black terrorism, including organizations like the Ku Klux Klan, periodic "race riots" such as the Tulsa Race Massacre, and lynchings, Jim Crow, voter suppression, redlining,[148] segregation and theft of Black property and wealth,[149] the most plausible explanation for Black inability to thrive in the United States is the Black genome.

Libertarians and hereditarianism[edit]

Most libertarians are opposed to any government spending except for policing, a legal system, and external defense, so hereditarianism is perfect for libertarian political goals, especially the goal of destroying social safety nets in the United States. Hereditarians have argued that those who are poor and who have poor IQ test scores are not the victims of systemic racism or historical events or economic influences, but rather the victims of their own incompetent genes. And therefore, the argument goes, the poor and disadvantaged cannot be helped by government programs.

Charles Murray, long associated with the right-wing libertarian think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI) [150] published a book in 1997 called What it Means to be a Libertarian: A Personal Interpretation.[151]

Herrnstein, Murray and The Bell Curve[edit]

Tom Scocca retweeting Charles Murray justifying employment discrimination

Richard Herrnstein died the month The Bell Curve was published, but his co-author Murray would go on to a long career funded by right-leaning libertarians via the Manhattan Institute.[152] The Manhattan Institute had given Murray's career a boost in 1984 by commissioning his anti-welfare book, Losing Ground. Murray and Herrnstein would then combine the anti-social safety net policies of the Republican Party with the hereditarian race tradition of Herrnstein, bolstered by the "science" of Wilson's partner in racialist theories, Rushton.

The contemporary view of The Bell Curve was that it was a targeted attack on Black intelligence, as when Al Franken joked at the 1996 White House Correspondents Dinner:

"By the way, also here tonight is Charles Murray who I understand has been hard at work on a sequel to "The Bell Curve" entitled "Jazz, the Music Created by Morons." [153]

E. O. Wilson defended The Bell Curve in an interview on C-Span in 2007, saying: "I think it was attacked unfairly because if you actually read the book and so many people who wrote editorials and critiques and so on hadn't really read it, you find that the authors themselves considered the evidence at that time, uh, somewhat ambiguous and needing further research on differences between different, you know, different geographical groups, ethnic groups and so on. And that they themselves ensured that would be no criterion for, you know, morally acceptable discrimination."[154]

In fact, in its appendix, The Bell Curve provides a vigorous defense of its eleven Rushton citations, claiming that Rushton is "not a crackpot or a bigot":


Controversy unprecedented even for the contentious subject of racial differences has erupted around the work of J. Philippe Rushton, a developmental psychologist at the University of Western Ontario. Rushton argues that the differences in the average intelligence test scores among East Asians, blacks, and whites are not only primarily genetic but part of a complex of racial differences that includes such variables as brain size, genital size, rate of sexual maturation, length of the menstrual cycle, frequency of sexual intercourse, gamete production, sexual hormone levels, the tendency to produce dizygotic twins, marital stability, infant mortality, altruism, law abidingness, and mental health. For each variable, Rushton has concluded, the three races — Mongoloids, Caucasoids, and Negroids — fall in a certain order, with the average Caucasoid in the middle and the other two races on one side or the other. The ordering of the races, he further argues, has an evolutionary basis; hence these ordered racial differences must involve genes.

To reach his conclusion, Rushton starts with the well-established observation in biology that species vary in their reproductive strategies. Some species produce many offspring (per parent) of which only a small fraction survive; others produce small numbers of offspring with relatively high survival rates. The involvement of parents in their offsprings' health and development (which biologists call "parental investment") tends to be high for species having few offspring and high survival rates and low for those employing the other strategy (many offspring and low survival rates). Many other species differences are concomitant with this fundamental one, according to standard biological doctrine.

Rushton's thesis is that this standard biological principle may be applied within our own species. Rushton acknowledges that human beings are as a species far out along the continuum of low reproduction, high offspring survival, and high parental investment, but he argues that the ordering of the races on the many variables he has identified can be explained as the result of evolutionary differences in how far out the races are. According to Rushton, the average Mongoloid is toward one Rushton paints with a broad brush, focusing on the major racial categories rather than the dozens of more finely drawn reproductively isolated human populations that might test his theory more conclusively. But beyond that, his thesis uses numerous questions — moral, pragmatic, and scientific. Many critics attack the theory on scientific, not just moral, grounds. They question whether Rushton has really shown that the races are consistently ordered in the way he says they are, or whether a biological theory that was meant to explain species differences can he properly applied to groups within a single species, or whether the evidence tor genetic influences on his variables stands up. Rushton has responded to his critics with increasingly detailed and convincing empirical reports of the race differences m some of the traits on his list, and he cites preeminent biological authority tor his use of the concept of reproductive strategies. He has strengthened the case for consistently ordered race differences, at least tor some of the variables he discusses, since his first formulation of the theory in 1985. Nevertheless, the theory remains a long way from confirmation.

We cannot at present say who is more nearly right as a matter of science, Rushton or his critics. However, Rushton's work is not that of a crackpot or a bigot, as many of his critics are given to charging. Nor are we sympathetic with Rushton's academic colleagues or the politicians in Ontario who have called for his peremptory dismissal from a tenured professorship. Setting aside whether his work is timely or worthwhile — a judgment we are loath to make under any circumstances — it is plainly science. He is not alone in seeking an evolutionary explanation of the observed differences among the races. As science, there is nothing wrong with Rushton's work in principle; we expect that time will tell whether it is right or wrong in fact.[155]

Ben Winegard responds to Black history

Considering how often they cite Rushton, and considering Herrnstein's statements on race before the publication of The Bell Curve and Murray's statements after, it's very unlikely they had any doubt who was "more nearly right as a matter of science, Rushton or his critics."

In 2021 Charles Murray took hereditarian politics to their logical conclusion, calling job discrimination (currently illegal) against Black applicants "economically rational" based on the hereditarian arguments in his book Facing Reality. Razib Khan wrote a glowing review of Facing Reality in Quillette, expressing his full agreement with Murray's warning that America was endangered by the genetically-endowed criminality of Black Americans.[156]

When the realities of Black American history are pointed out to hereditarians, they sometimes point to immigrant groups' success as evidence that there is something particularly deficient about Black people, as when Ben Winegard implied that Asian and Jewish groups have had comparable experiences, or when Andrew Sullivan and Charles Murray attribute Asian American success to genetics.[157]

Charles Murray and Peter Thiel[edit]

Murray and Thiel teamed up in 2011 to support the proposition "Too Many Kids Go To College"[158]

Charles Murray funding racialist extremists[edit]
Charles Murray admits to funding racialist extremists on Twitter, encourages others to join him

In 2020 Murray claimed to have contributed to fundraising campaigns for racialist extremists Emil Kirkegaard and Bo Winegard for a human biodiversity fundraiser.

Rushton again[edit]

Switching from "science" to politics, J. Philippe Rushton became president of the Pioneer Fund in 2002. Rushton was a favorite of the International Society for Intelligence Research, appearing and having his work represented at its conferences every year between 2000 and 2010 (Rushton died in 2012).[159][160][161][162][163][164][165][166][167][168][169]

Rushton's racial theories were promoted by Steve Sailer and Razib Khan[170] on their websites, including in their columns on Ron Unz's platform The Unz Review.

Ron Unz[edit]

Ron Unz is a politically-active multimillionaire who funded a California proposition to outlaw bilingual education in 1998[171]

Ron Unz is also a former student of E. O. Wilson.[172] His Unz Review' has always promoted race pseudoscience. In his Unz Review column in 2000, Steve Sailer celebrated the 25th anniversary of Sociobiology.[173] Unz also outright gave money to Sailer, Khan and Gregory Cochran.

Mainstreaming biological determinism in the 21st century[edit]

Steven Pinker[edit]

Steven Pinker, "celebrity intellectual",[174] promoted the career of Steve Sailer from approximately 2002 to 2012 and has promoted the career of Razib Khan from about 2006 to the present. Pinker has probably done more than any individual, besides possibly Andrew Sullivan, to mainstream hereditarianism. In 2002, The New York Times' review of Pinker's The Blank Slate made the connection between Pinker's book and Wilson's sociobiology.[175] Pinker has been an advisor of the E. O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation[176]

Richard Hanania[edit]

Pinker is a supporter of racist Richard Hanania,[177] so much so that he only has a single subscription on his Twitter (X) account and that is to Richard Hanania.[178][179] Hanania became notorious when it was discovered that he previously had an online extremist career under a pseudonym.[180] Pinker continued to support him, even after his extremist activities were revealed.

But as journalist Jonathan Katz pointed out, Hanania's opinions under his own name are not much less extreme. Hanania agreed with Charles Murray about Black Americans and job discrimination. Katz wrote, "Through his non-apology, Hanania was trying to strike a distinction between calling for violence in the name of “natural” hierarchy and instead proposing other policies — such as allowing discrimination in hiring and public accommodations — based on the same."[181]

And according to Hanania, "The reason I’m the target of a cancellation effort is because left-wing journalists dislike anyone acknowledging statistical differences between races…"[182]

Matthew Yglesias justifies mainstreaming racist Richard Hanania

Matthew Yglesias justified his support for Richard Hanania[183], although he freely admitted he knew Hanania was a racist, because sometimes he wrote well.[184]

Tom Scocca noted:

Hanania also tweeted "We need more policing, incarceration, and surveillance of black people," and complained: "We still hear about Emmett Till. But you can find a new black-on-white hate crime every day of the week." In July, he tweeted that African American Studies departments were founded with staffs of "street hustlers and illiterates."

None of this stopped various mainstream liberals and centrists from conversing with him or promoting his work. Professionally-clever pundit Matthew Yglesias, who regularly interacted with Hanania on Twitter and promoted one of his posts in his newsletter, struck a pose of jaded knowingness when the news of "Richard Hoste"'s opinions broke. "Not sure 'Hanania is racist' was a particularly well-kept secret but interesting," he tweeted.[185]

Other supporters of Hanania include Harlan Crow, Vivek Ramaswamy, Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, Marc Andreessen and David Sacks.[182]

Intellectual Dark Web and Quillette[edit]

In 2018, New York Times columnist Bari Weiss published an article "Meet the Renegades of the Intellectual Dark Web"[186] The members of the Intellectual Dark Web, especially those featured in photographs standing in the dark or in bushes, all except Joe Rogan, had well-known connections to hereditarian politics and racist plutocrats:

In the article Weiss called Quillette "the publication most associated with this movement." Quillette is a quasi-respectable magazine, devoted to hereditarianism. And the biography of Peter Thiel Contrarian credibly claimed that Thiel had "secretly" funded Quillette.[187]

Biosocial criminology[edit]

Biosocial criminology is a subset of criminology and is promoted in academia by individuals such as Kevin Beaver, who can be seen here giving an interview with Stefan Molyneux in a video entitled "What You Didn't Know About IQ".[188] Of note is that Kevin Beaver is the Judith Rich Harris Professor of Criminology at Florida State University's College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Steven Pinker was an important promoter of the career of Judith Rich Harris.[189]

Just as Rushton used Wilson's sociobiology theories to claim (with Wilson's support) that Black people are so different from White people as to constitute a separate species, the academic field of biosocial criminology took that belief and argued that Black people are genetically more inclined to criminality than other "races".

John Paul Wright[edit]

The political implications of biosocial criminology are made clear in the Beaver-edited book Biosocial Criminology: New Directions in Theory and Research published in 2009.[190] The book includes a chapter by Beaver's doctoral advisor John Paul Wright,Wikipedia Associate Professor and Graduate Director in the Division of Criminal Justice, University of Cincinnati.[191]

The chapter, "Inconvenient Truths" cites Rushton, Jensen and Lynn to explain the biosocial criminology beliefs about race:

While self-control is an important executive function, so, too, is intelligence. Indeed, there is no other individual variable as studied as intelligence. While hotly debated, thousands of studies of millions of individual intelligence scores indicate that IQ follows traditional racial categories (Rushton & Jensen, 2005). Asians have an average IQ of 106, Caucasians 100, and Blacks 85 (Lynn, 2006; Sarich & Miele, 2004). These findings have been corroborated in meta-analytic reviews and in experimental studies of cognitive reaction times (Rushton & Jensen, 2005). IQ, as modern studies have recently found, reflects the brain’s ability to process information, to accurately categorize information, to store information, and to recall specific information to solve problems. IQ is also strongly correlated with self-control (Thompson, et al., 2001) and highly dependent on the volume of gray matter in the frontal regions of the brain (Thompson, et al., 2001). Gray matter volume, moreover, is strongly heritable.[190]:147

The connection between race and criminal behavior is clearly complex and involves a range of historical, social, psychological, and individual variables. Evolution, however, provides a powerful mechanism to understand the development of human races and the distribution of traits and behaviors within and across races. It helps to explain why races would appear and under what conditions races would appear. It helps to explain why certain traits would be beneficial and why these traits, such as a higher IQ, would be unequally distributed across races. Moreover, evolutionary theory helps to explain why race-based patterns of behavior are universal, such as black over-involvement in crime. No other paradigm organizes these patterns better. No other paradigm can explain these inconvenient truths.

Any effort to divorce evolution from an understanding of race runs the risk of substituting imagination and political agendasemphasis added as a convenient truth that stands apart from the scientific truth. Fortunately, social convenience is not a scientific or evolutionary principle. Instead of hiding our collective heads in the sands of ignorance, it may benefit humanity if we continue to purse knowledge on our origins, our differences, and our similarities. While this chapter has focused on evolutionary differences, it goes without saying that the vast majority of people desire the same things out of life: safety, security, and a chance to improve on their own condition. A science free to pursue all avenues of inquest, free of self-censorship, and free of political obstacles to uncovering scientific facts is one way, maybe even the best way, to help ensure that people from all races lead a fulfilling life.[190]:151

Wilson to Rushton to Wright to Trump[edit]

In the E. O. Wilson tradition, Wright claims the hereditarian position to be the pure scientific one, while accusing critics of having political agendas. In 2019 Betsy DeVos, the Trump Administration's Department of Education Secretary, attempted to revoke Obama-era policy on school discipline practices using Wright's work to argue that African American children are inherently more disruptive.[192]

"If we removed all the history"[edit]

Wilson's promotion of the hereditarian assumption on race, promoted publicly through Sociobiology and On Human Nature and stealthily through encouraging the racialist claims of Rushton, led ultimately to hereditarians attempting to downplay or even erase all knowledge of the struggles of Black Americans. After all, if you completely remove the historical record of the injustice and brutalities of the Black American experience, the only remaining explanation for Black American inability to thrive is "genetics."

Razib Khan, a longtime admirer of Rushton and the direct financial beneficiary of Unz,[193] offers an example of the hereditarian attempt to deny history. In 2014, in an article objecting to a Carl Zimmer piece in The New York Times. Khan wrote:

So I have to take issue when The New York Times posts articles with headlines such as "White? Black? A Murky Distinction Grows Still Murkier".[194] What genetics is showing is that in fact white Americans are shockingly European to an incredibly high degree for a population with roots on this continent for 400 years. If we removed all the history that we take for granted we'd be amazed that the indigenous peoples had so little demographic impact, and, that the larger numbers of people of partial African ancestry did not move into the general “white” population.[195]

If we "removed all the history" we wouldn't know about the frequent rape of enslaved people, the one-drop rule or how the indigenous peoples were almost wiped out by European diseases, Native American genocides, and American expansionist policies.

Sam Harris vs. Ezra Klein[edit]

In a debate with Ezra Klein over The Bell Curve, Sam Harris demonstrates how far hereditarians are willing to go to deny the importance of history:

Ezra Klein: I think there is what you would call confusion here. I do think it’s just important to say this. I have not criticized you, and I continue to not, for having the conversation. I’ve criticized you for having the conversation without dealing with and separating it out and thinking through the context and the weight of American history on it.

Sam Harris: The weight of American history is completely irrelevant to

Ezra Klein: It can’t possibly be irrelevant on something that even you admit is environmental![196]

Harris defended The Bell Curve by providing a link to a Quillette article written by Bo Winegard and Ben Winegard A Tale of Two Bell Curves[197] that literally presents the American hereditarian assumption:

Of course, there are other possible explanations of the Black-White gap, such as parenting styles, stereotype threat, and a legacy of slavery/discrimination among others. However, to date, none of these putative causal variables has been shown to have a significant effect on the IQ gap, and no researcher has yet made a compelling case that environmental variables can explain the gap.[198]

The late Michael Brooks offered an informative and amusing view of the Harris-Klein debate.[199]

But hereditarians aren't just idly speculating on the advantages, to the hereditarian project, of removing history. In the early 2020s they began to remove all the history through the American political system.

In 2022-2023 Republican governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, a favorite of Republican donor Peter Thiel[200] the funder of the quasi-respectable hereditarian online magazine Quillette, has "Used Frederick Douglass to Rationalize Slavery",[201] banned African American studies[202] and Critical Race Theory courses[203].

Lawrence Summers[edit]

One of the best-known political applications of hereditarian claims occurred in 2005. In 2004 Lawrence Summers,Wikipedia president of Harvard, participated in an Edge "end-of-summer event." Other participants included E. O. Wilson, Steven Pinker and Jeffrey Epstein.[204]

Epstein was a fan of Wilson, according to New York Magazine in 2002:

"On the 727 these days, he has been reading a book by E. O. Wilson, the eminent scientist and originator of the field of sociobiology, called Consilience, which makes the case that the boundaries between scientific disciplines are in the process of breaking down. It’s a view Epstein himself holds.[205])

Summers was invited to the January 2005, Science and Engineering Workforce Project (SEWP) conference of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). The conference had been convened to discuss issues of diversity in the S&E workforce. "Approximately fifty people attended, comprised of economists, physical scientists, mathematicians, psychologists, policy makers, program directors, sociologists, students, a lawyer, and a recruiting director from a Fortune 500 company. The presentations reflected the diverse backgrounds of the attendees, with talks ranging from highly abstract models of achievement, to tales of successful program efforts to address representation, to personal accounts of gender discrimination in the sciences."[206]

Influenced by Pinker,[207] Summers gave a speech at the SEWP conference in which he suggested that the most important reason for women's under-representation in careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) was the genetic inferiority of women in comparison to men on those subjects.[206]

Understandably, the conference attendees did not appreciate the president of Harvard University informing them that their primary difficulty in STEM fields was their own mental insufficiencies. Summers, holding a political role in academia, represented an institutional threat to women seeking jobs in those fields.

One of the most far-fetched alternative explanations promoted by hereditarians for the reaction to Summers' speech was presented by evolutionary psychologist Carole Hooven:

Why do people direct such outrage at scholars who are trying to do their jobs, discovering and communicating how the world works? In the aftermath of the Summers imbroglio, Steven Pinker, the well-known professor of psychology at Harvard, argued that Summers had been met with such vitriol because he had violated a cultural taboo (Pinker 2005). People who belong or want to belong to a social group, whether centered around political views, or a country or school, ethnic or gender identity, can signal their loyalty to the group and its values by demonstrating their "moral purity" (Paresky, 2022).[208]

Somehow the most obvious reason for the reaction to Summers' claims, institutional threat, escapes hereditarians and they have to invent one more just-so story to explain the behaviors of human beings.

Not long after Summers resigned as president of Harvard, after a "stormy five-year tenure,"[209] he went to work for the Obama Administration.

Recently Summers was seen promoting a Quillette article by racialist extremist Bo Winegard.[210]

Was E. O. Wilson a racist?[edit]

When Wilson was born in Alabama, in 1929, slavery was still within living memory: the Federal Writers Project was interviewing former slaves through at least 1938, when Wilson was nine years old.[211] The last Civil War soldier died in 1956.[212] Jim Crow laws were in place from before Wilson's birth through his early adulthood.[213]

In an interview, Wilson's biographer, Richard Rhodes, reveals how little contact Wilson had with Black people when he was growing up: "…one of the things that was really great for him was when he went to Harvard for his graduate study, his roommate was from I think, Ghana or Liberia. And it gave him a chance to expand his understanding of other human beings from other cultures and other ethnicities."[214].

David Sepkoski was not impressed by Rhodes' scholarship, pointing out that Rhodes didn't bother to review the Wilson papers for the biography, and said: "Somehow he manages to rewrite Naturalist (Wilson's autobiography) but make it less interesting. This kind of hagiography is what happens when you only refer to published statements and believe everything they say."[215]

In an interview with Bill Moyers, Wilson revealed an affinity for Christian conservatives in the South — he agreed with them on everything but the Christian part, "I could go down, you know, and pick a pastor from some small country church along the byway of the high of Alabama and I'll bet we'd… as I suggested in that book… we sat down and talked about our deepest beliefs together, we'd come up with more agreements. Agreements on more things than disagreements."[216]

At the present time, 94% of Americans approve of marriage between Black and White people.[217] But when Wilson was a young man, only 4 percent of Americans approved and by the time Sociobiology was published in 1975, approval was still only about 31% — so it was normal and acceptable to tell pollsters you had a problem with "mixed" marriages. And in spite of Wilson's claim that being called a racist was "a death sentence" in the 1970s, throughout the first half of Wilson's life it was acceptable to hold views that are now considered racist.

Wilson probably didn't think twice, during yet another Great Man of Science hagiography when the interviewer observed, "Native Americans traditionally had that kind of intimacy with the landscape and its wildlife…" and Wilson replied "They never tire of telling us, do they? [laughs]"[218]

As the letters exchanged between Wilson and Rushton show, Wilson was aware of the racialist implications of his own sociobiology theories and encouraged Rushton to take them even further. He was also aware that he had to keep that encouragement secret. But it's possible Wilson did not consider himself a racist, but rather a "race realist", that is, someone who is able to accept the inferiority of Black people based on sociobiology claims, while still being fair-minded enough to approve of their right to vote.

This attitude has likely carried over to contemporary advocates of sociobiology, which is why hereditarians continued to defend Wilson even after the Rushton letters were publicized. If Wilson was a racist, that meant they were racists too. And this is demonstrated by one of Wilson's loudest champions, Michael Shermer.[219] Rushton was the president of the Pioneer Fund and presented his race claims at American Renaissance conferences[220] but Shermer doesn't think even Rushton was a racist because Shermer believes that Rushton was right.[132]

Like his hereditarian followers, Wilson likely redefined the concept of "racist" for himself into extinction. The belief in intelligence and criminal-tendency racial hierarchies and "reproductive differences" based on nothing more than speculation and Rushton's "dubious studies"[221] is justified as "science" and they present themselves as simple pilgrims of empiricism, untainted by political views (unlike their critics) and who must, whatever the cost, present "inconvenient truths."

C. Brandon OgbunuWikipedia said it well:

In the case of Wilson, I don’t care whether we formally label him a racist (“what he is”). I do know, however, that his support of Rushton amplified race scientists and their rancid ideas (“what he did”). And I know that race science is perhaps the most destructive intellectual scam ever constructed. It has poisoned basic conversations about human evolution and genetics, even — perhaps especially — for people with non-racist leanings or tendencies. It has stymied progress, muddied conversation, and discouraged talented people from studying genetics and evolution. As far as misinformation problems go, it sits alongside scientific sexism on pseudoscience’s Mount Rushmore. (Give the anti-vax and climate change denial movements time to mature slightly, and they will take their rightful place there as well.) By extension, people who support race scientists promote destructive misinformation. And Wilson did just that.[140]

Criticisms of sociobiology[edit]


Wilson's sociobiology — the book and the concept was immediately criticized for a variety of reasons, and contrary to Wilson's preferred scientists vs. water-flinging Marxists scenario, most of the critics were not Marxists.

Against Sociobiology letter, The New York Review of Books[edit]

In response to a review of Sociobiology published in the The New York Review of Books, a group of university faculty and scientists, high school teachers, doctors, and students published a letter, also in The New York Review of Books. One of the points of the letter was that Wilson claimed too much for the nature side of the nature/nurture equation, and they claimed Wilson's biological determinism was a tool to serve those in power.

What we are left with then is a particular theory about human nature, which has no scientific support, and which upholds the concept of a world with social arrangements remarkably similar to the world which E. O. Wilson inhabits. We are not denying that there are genetic components to human behavior. But we suspect that human biological universals are to be discovered more in the generalities of eating, excreting and sleeping than in such specific and highly variable habits as warfare, sexual exploitation of women and the use of money as a medium of exchange. What Wilson’s book illustrates to us is the enormous difficulty in separating out not only the effects of environment (e.g., cultural transmission) but also the personal and social class prejudice of the researcher. Wilson joins the long parade of biological determinists whose work has served to buttress the institutions of their society by exonerating them from responsibility for social problems.[222]

Marvin Harris[edit]

In his book Cultural Materialism: The Struggle for a Science of Culture, anthropologist Marvin Harris thought that human sociobiology would have value if it focused on why humans have an exponentially more complex cultural repertoire than any other species. He thought that sociobiology as conceived by Wilson was a misdirected attempt to explain the genetic components of cultural traits.

Each instance of a genuine cultural performance by a macaque or a chimpanzee is worth a journal article. But all the journals in all the libraries of the world would not suffice to render a running account of human cultural activities.

Cultural evolution is thus responsible for creating an amount of intra-specific behavioral variation in the human species that does not exist in any other species. Moreover, this immense quantity of variation involves functional specialties whose analogues are associated with great phylogenetic distances in the evolu­tion of other bio-forms. The contrast between a paleo-technic foraging band and an industrial superpower is surely not inferior to the contrast between whole phyla — if not kingdoms — in the Linnaean taxonomy.

It took billions of years for natural selection to create specialized adap­tations for fishing, hunting, agriculture; for aquatic, terrestrial, and aerial locomotion; and for predatory and defensive weaponry, such as teeth, claws, and armor. Equivalent specialties were developed by cul­tural evolution in less than ten thousand years.

The main focus of human sociobiology ought therefore to be the explanation of why other species have such minuscule and insignificant cultural repertories and why humans alone have such gigantic and important ones. But sociobi­ologists conceive their task to be something else — namely, the identifi­cation of the genetic components in human cultural traits. This repre­sents a fundamental misdirection for human social science and a diversion of resources from the more urgent task of explaining the vast majority of cultural traits that do not have a definite genetic compo­nent.[223]

Richard Lewontin[edit]

False Metaphor. Many of the descriptions of animal behavior are taken metaphorically from human behavior and laid on animals as natural. Human behavior is then seen as a special case of the more general phenomenon "discovered" in animals. The most famous case, antedating sociobiology but incorporated totally into its theory, is that of caste in insects. Caste is a human phenomenon, originally a race or lineage but later a hereditary social group associated with particular trades and social positions. The application of ideas of caste to insects gives legitimacy to the idea that human castes are simply another case of a more generalized phenomenon. But in what sense are insects divided into "castes"? Class structure is an economic and social phenomenon related to and coming out of human historical events and regulating the social and material power of individuals. Castes in India were the outcome of an invasion and conquest of Dravidians by Aryans. High-caste Hindus had a monopoly in social, political, and economic power while untouchables lived at the margin of existence. What has all this to do with ants? Nor does an ant "queen," a totally captive egg-producing machine, force fed by the "workers," bear any resemblance to Elizabeth I or Catherine the Great, or even to the politically powerless Elizabeth II who is nevertheless a multimillionaire. Like caste, slavery is another human institution which bears no important resemblance to its claimed equivalent in insects. Ants do not know commodities, nor capital investment, nor rates of interest, nor slave revolts, nor the anguish of mothers and fathers torn from their children and spouses on auction blocks. But what is true for obvious cases like caste and slavery applies also to "aggression," "warfare," "cooperation," "kinship," "loyalty," "coyness," and a host of other behaviors and institutions that sociobiologists find in animals.[224]

Stephen Jay Gould[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Stephen Jay Gould

The Washington Post obitiuary said "Gould's politics were solidly left of center. He forcefully argued against the teaching of creationism in schools, a position that drew a great deal of fire. His book The Mismeasure of Man is perhaps the most influential critique of racist theories in the study of human intelligence. Critics sometimes called him a Marxist."[225]

Among Gould's many criticisms of sociobiology was that it confused cultural and genetic adaptation:

Much of human behaviour is clearly adaptive, but the problem for sociobiology is that humans have developed an alternative, non-genetic system to support and transmit adaptive behaviour, cultural evolution. (An adaptive be­haviour does not require genetic input and Darwinian selection for its origin and maintenance in humans; it may arise by trial and error in a few individuals who do not differ genetically from their groupmates in any way relevant to this behaviour spread by learning and imitation, and stabilise across generations by value, custom and tradition.) Moreover, cultural transmission is far more powerful in potential speed and spread than natural selection — for cultural evolution operates in the "Lamarckian" mode by inheritance through custam, writing and technology of characteristics acquired by human activity in each generation.

Thus, the existence of adaptive behaviour in humans says nothing about the probability of a genetic basis for it, or about the operation of natural selection. Take, for example, Trivers's concept of "reciprocal altruism". The phenomenon exists, to be sure, and it is clearly adaptive. In honest moments, we all acknowledge that many of our "altruistic" acts are performed in the hope and expectation of future reward. Can anyone imagine a stable society with­out bonds of reciprocal obligation. But structural necessi­ties do not imply direct genetic coding. (All human be­haviours are, of course, part of the potential range per­mitted by our genotype — but sociobiological speculations posit direct natural selection for specific behavioural traits.) As Benjamin Franklin said: "Either we hang together, or assuredly we will all hang separately."

The grandest goal — I do not say the only goal — of human sociobiology must fail in the face of these difficulties. That goal is no less than the reduction of the behavioural (in­deed most of the social) sciences to Darwinian theory. Edward Wilson presents a vision of the human sciences shrinking in their independent domain, absorbed on one side by neurobiology and on the other by sociobiology.

But this vision cannot be fulfilled, for the reason cited above. Although we can identify adaptive behaviour in humans, we cannot tell if it is genetically based (while much of it must arise by fairly pure cultural evolution). Yet the reduction of the human sciences to Darwinism requires the genetic argument, for Darwinism is a theory about genetic change in populations. All else is analogy and metaphor.

My crystal ball shows the human sociobiologists retreating to a fallback position — indeed it is happening already. They will argue that this fallback is as powerful as their original position, though it actually represents the unravel­ling of their fondest hopes. They will argue: yes, indeed, we cannot tell whether an adaptive behaviour is genetically coded or not. But it doesn't matter. The same adaptive con­straints apply whether the behaviour evolved by cultural or Darwinian routes, and biologists have identified and explicated the adaptive constraints. (Steve Emlen tells me, for example, that some Indian peoples gather food in accordance with predictions of optimal foraging — ­a theory developed by ecologists.)

But it does matter. It makes all the difference in the world whether human behaviours develop and stabilise by cultural evolution or by direct Darwinian selection for genes influencing specific adaptive actions. It makes a great difference because cultural and Darwinian evolution differ profoundly in the three major areas that embody what evolution, at least as a quantitative science, is all about:

  1. Rate. Cultural evolution, as a "Lamarckian" process, can proceed orders of magnitude more rapidly than Dar­winian evolution. Natural selection continues its work within Homo sapiens, probably at characteristic rates for change in large, fairly stable populations, but the power of cultural evolution has dwarfed its influence (alteration in frequency of the sickling gene v. changes in modes of communication and transportation). Consider what we have done in the past 3000 years, all without the slightest evidence for any change in the power of the human brain.
  2. Modifiability. Complex traits of cultural evolution can be altered rapidly; Darwinian change is limited to much slower rates of spread of alleles by natural selection.
  3. Diffusability. Since traits of cultural evolution can be transmitted by imitation and inculcation, evolutionary patterns include frequent and complex anastomosis among branches. Darwinian evolution is a process of continuous divergence and ramification.

I believe that the future will bring mutual illumination between two vigorous, independent disciplines — Darwinian theory and cultural history. This is a good thing, joyously to be welcomed. But there will be no reduction of the human sciences to Darwinian theory and the research programme of human sociobiology will fail. The name, of course, may survive. It is an irony of history that move­ments are judged successful if their label sticks, though the emerging content of a discipline may lie closer to what opponents originally advocated. Modern geology, for example, is an even blend of Lyell's strict uniformi­tarianism and the claims of catastrophists. But we call the hybrid doctrine by Lyell's name.

I welcome the coming failure of reductionistic hopes because it will lead us to recognise human complexity at its proper level. For consumption by Time's millions, my colleague Bob Trivers maintained: "Sooner or later, political science, law, economics, psychology, psychiatry, and anthropology will all be branches of sociobiology" (Time, 1 August, 1977, p 54). It's one thing to conjecture, as I would allow, that common features among independently de­veloped legal systems might reflect adaptive constraints and might be explicated usefully with some biological analogies. It is quite another to state, as Bob Trivers did, that the entire legal profession. among others, will be sub­sumed as mere epiphenomena of Darwinian processes.[226]

Evolutionary psychology[edit]

Gould vs. Pinker[edit]

As Wilson himself admitted, sociobiology continued under the name evolutionary psychology. And under that name, the argument continued between hereditarians and opponents of heredtarianism. Especially notable was an exchange between Gould and Pinker. In 1997 Gould wrote a review of Daniel C. Dennett's book Darwin's Dangerous Idea for The New York Review of Books. Gould suggested that evolutionary psychology was a type of Darwinian fundamentalism with an over-reliance on one component of evolutionary theory, adaptation.[227] Steven Pinker responded with a letter, also published in The New York Review, and Gould responded by claiming Pinker misunderstood the concept of spandrels.[228]

Myers vs. strict adaptationism[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Adaptation

Twenty-two years later, biologist PZ Myers posted a video on his YouTube account, "The Problems with Evolutionary Psychology," that made similar arguments against the over-reliance on adaptation by evolutionary psychology.[229]

David Buller[edit]

In 2006 David Buller published a book, Adapting Minds: Evolutionary Psychology and the Persistent Quest for Human Nature, which demonstrated that evolutionary psychology was so reflexively on the side of nature over nurture, for any explanation about human culture, that "one of the founders of the field of evolutionary psychology," David Buss,Wikipedia conflated female sexual slavery with female choice:

…in a well-documented study, the anthropologist William Irons found that, among the Turkmen of Persia, males in the wealthier half of the population left 75 percent more offspring than males in the poorer half of the population. Buss cites several studies like this as indicating that "high status in men leads directly to increased sexual access to a larger number of women," and he implies that this is due to the greater desirability of high-status men (David Buss 1999 "Evolutionary Psychology the New Science of the Mind").

But, among the Turkmen, women were sold by their families into marriage. The reason that higher-status males enjoyed greater reproductive success among the Turkmen is that they were able to buy wives earlier and more often than lower-status males. Other studies that clearly demonstrate a reproductive advantage for high-status males are also studies of societies or circumstances in which males "traded" in women. This isn't evidence that high-status males enjoy greater reproductive success because women find them more desirable. Indeed, it isn't evidence of female preference at all, just as the fact that many harem-holding despots produced remarkable numbers of offspring is no evidence of their desirability to women. It is only evidence that when men have power they will use it to promote their reproductive success, among other things (and that women, under such circumstances, will prefer entering a harem to suffering the dire consequences of refusal).[230]

Why did Wilson share his Rushton correspondence?[edit]

In spite of Pinker's reaction to reports of Wilson's correspondence with Rushton, claiming the reports were "slander" and an invasion of privacy, Wilson had voluntarily shared his Rushton correspondence with the public. Considering how damning the correspondence is, why did Wilson share it?

Probably because Wilson believed he and Rushton were correct concerning race. It's likely that Wilson agreed with Murray and Herrnstein's statement in The Bell Curve, "As science, there is nothing wrong with Rushton's work in principle; we expect that time will tell whether it is right or wrong in fact."

In 2014 Wilson praised New York Times science writer Nicholas Wade's book A Troublesome Inheritance. The New York Times review panned it. Wade's political hypocrisy and attempt to "remove all the history" to make way for genetic explanations were noted in the review:

…He indulges in circular logic. He tells just-so stories. While warning us to avoid filtering science through politics, he draws heavily from conservative historians who minimize the roles played by political power, geographic advantage, momentum, disease and dumb luck. Conveniently, this leaves more historical questions for genetics to answer.

And despite his protests to the contrary, Wade often sounds as if he sees the rise of the West as a sort of stable endpoint of human history and evolution — as if, having considered 5,000 years in which history has successively blessed the Middle East, the Far East and the Ottoman Empire, he observes the West’s current run of glory and thinks the pendulum has stilled.

If Wade could point to genes that give races distinctive social behaviors, we might overlook such shortcomings. But he cannot…[231]

But Wilson wrote, "Nicholas Wade combines the virtues of truth without fear and the celebration of genetic diversity as a strength of humanity, thereby creating a forum appropriate to the twenty-first century." Charles Murray was also a fan, "[A Troublesome Inheritance] is a delight to read& — conversational and lucid. And it will trigger an intellectual explosion the likes of which we haven’t seen for a few decades."[232] Steve Sailer, writing in racist Taki's Magazine loved it and sympathized with Wade over their mutual anti-hereditarian opponents.[233]

After Wilson died, Wade rushed to his defense, attacking Monica McLemore in the right-wing, Koch-funded Manhattan Institute's[234] City Journal:

The great biologist Edward O. Wilson died on December 26. Few readers of Scientific American could be unaware of Wilson’s towering contributions to biology and conservation, or of his rare gifts as a synthesizer and writer. They surely didn’t expect that the oeuvre of this globally renowned scientist would be labeled by Scientific American, just three days after his death, as "built on racist ideas."[235]

How dare McLemore make an issue of the ethnic essentialist claims of the "great biologist" — claims based on speculation and just-so stories.

Throughout his life Wilson promoted and defended hereditarianism and often proclaimed victory for sociobiology, including its claims about race, and this never prevented him from being rewarded by his society with ever-greater prizes and praise. It's likely that Wilson believed his views would be vindicated, and he would not be condemned as a dishonorable racist, but rather, be hailed as a prophet and one of the greatest of the Great Men of Science.

See also[edit]

For more critiques on topics associated with biological determinism and sociobiology see these articles:

External links[edit]


  1. The more general term behavioral ecologyWikipedia is often used in place of the more controversial term sociobiology in biology curriculums. Controversy only surrounds human sociobiology in particular.[4]
  2. Without naming any papers specifically, the editor-in-chief of PNAS at the time, Randy Schekman, later stated that he had been "very concerned about the abuse of members' privilege" in using the communicated papers.[94] Schekman said of the communicated papers process that was terminated during his tenure (2006–2011), "We would challenge these papers, and people would take umbrage and personally attack me. It was discouraging to have to deal with that, but I was unbowed.[94] Inder Verma, who succeeded Schekman, commented, "Every member of the academy is a legend in their own mind."[94]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 The Last Refuge of Scoundrels” New Evidence of E. O. Wilson’s Intimacy with Scientific Racism Stacy Farina and Matthew Gibbons Science for the People
  2. Edward O. Wilson Discover Life.
  3. Ashley Montagu New World Encyclopedia.
  4. The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology, edited by David M. Buss, John Wiley & Sons, 2005. Chapter 5 by Edward H. Hagen
  5. E. O. Wilson Of Ants and Men (September 2015)
  6. Honoring a hero of the planet (April 6 2009) The Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
  7. Leonardo DiCaprio on Twitter: "The world lost a true hero for the planet when Dr. E.O. Wilson passed away - "the Darwin of the 20th century", prolific writer, pioneer of groundbreaking new concepts in biology, and one of the towering intellects of our time." the Darwin of the 20th century
  8. E. O. Wilson E. O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation
  9. Wilson, Renowned Harvard Biologist Known as ‘Darwin’s Natural Heir,’ Dies at 92 The Harvard Crimson
  10. Edward Osborne Wilson, Naturalist (1929–2021) (2021) Bert Hölldobler PNAS
  11. "A Biography of E.O. Wilson, the Scientist Who Foresaw Our Troubles" (November 10, 2021) New York Times
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 12.6 12.7 Wilson, Edward O. (2006). Naturalist. Internet Archive: Island Press/Shearwater Books. ISBN 1-55963-288-7. 
  13. A Legendary Scientist Sounds Off on the Trouble With STEM: E.O. Wilson on the next big thing, the gladiatorial nature of academe, and the world beyond the human senses by Charlie Tyson (May 7, 2019) The Chronicle of Higher Education.
  14. E. O. Wilson, Renowned Harvard Biologist Known as 'Darwin's Natural Heir' Dies at 92 (December 31, 2021) Harvard Crimson
  15. E.O. Wilson of Ants and Men aired 09/30/15 PBS
  16. Mountainfilm Festival introduction to its presentation of the PBS program 'E. O. Wilson of Ants and Men' 2016
  17. A Tribute to E. O. Wilson The American Chestnut Foundation, Lisa Thomson, TACF President & CEO
  18. The ant king's latest mission (Sat 30 Sep 2006 19.40 EDT) Robin McKie, The Guardian
  19. Edward O. Wilson (1929–2021) (February 3, 2022) Corrie S. Moreau and Naomi E. Pierce nature ecology & evolution
  20. Of ants and men - and saving the world (Sunday September 24 2006, 1.00am BST,) Bryan Appleyard The Sunday Times
  21. Johnson, Steven (January 27, 2002). "Finite Wonders". Review: The Future of Life by E. O. Wilson (Washington Pos). 
  22. Top 10 Books about Intelligent Animals - Naturalist by E. O. Wilson (Wed 12 Oct 2016 06.00 EDT) Frans de Waal The Guardian
  23. Carbon Costume DIY Guide for Cosplay and Halloween Calvin Candie, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, holds Django’s wife Broomhilda captive. As the owner of Candyland Plantation, his cruelty simmers under the mask of good manners, charming personality, and a sweet tooth.
  24. TV Tropes: Southern Gentleman
  25. Life Lessons, Taught by Insects review of Wilson's novel Anthill by Verlyn Klinkenborg (April 8, 2010) quoting Wilson's autobiography New York Times
  26. Science in the service of the far right: Henry E. Garrett, the IAAEE, and the Liberty Lobby Winston, A. S. (1998) Journal of Social Issues, 54(1), 179–210.
  27. Pioneer Fund Southern Poverty Law Center
  28. The Equalitarian Dogma Henry E. Garrett Perspectives in Biology and Medicine Johns Hopkins University Press Volume 4, Number 4, Summer 1961 pp. 480-484 10.1353/pbm.1961.0028 accessed via Project Muse
  29. Equalitarianism: A Source of Liberal Bias (August 2023) Bo Winegard, Cory Clark, Connor Hasty and Roy Baumeister Journal of Open Inquiry in the Behavioral Sciences
  30. The Peril of Politicizing Science Anna I. Krylov (June 10, 2021) The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters
  31. The Ideological Subversion of Biology Jerry A. Coyne and Luana S. Maroja (July/August 2023) Skeptical Inquirer
  32. Race And Reason: A Yankee View (1961) Carleton Putnam Washington D.C.: Public Affairs Press
  33. Carleton S. Coon New World Encyclopedia
  34. How Classroom Desegregation Will Work (1966) Henry E. Garrett Patrick Henry Press
  35. HENRY E. GARRETT, PSYCHOLOGIST, DIES (June 28, 1973) The New York Times
  36. jensenism, n. The theory that I.Q. is largely determined by the genes; jensenism, n. An I.Q. theory Lee Edson (August 31, 1969) The New York Times
  37. I.Q. Richard Herrnstein (September 1971) The Atlantic
  38. William Shockley Southern Poverty Law Center.
  39. I. Q. in the Meritocracy (1973) R. J. Herrnstein Little, Brown Company
  40. Charles Murray Southern Poverty Law Center.
  41. Matthew Yglesias The Brookings Institution.
  42. The Bell Curve is about policy. And it’s wrong. (Apr 10, 2018, 8:00am EDT) Matthew Yglesias Vox
  43. A melding of humanities, science Amy MacKinnon (March 6, 2018) Harvard Crimson
  44. The Theory of Island Biogeography Robert H. MacArthur and Edward O. Wilson (originally published in 1967)
  45. The Insect Societies Edward O. Wilson (1971) Cambridge, Mass., Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
  46. 46.0 46.1 46.2 Sociobiology: the new synthesis Edward O. Wilson (1975) Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
  47. The Jensen Uproar Antony Flew (February 25, 2009) Cambridge University Press
  48. A Public Statement on the Herrnstein Controversy: Distributed at Philadelphia AAAS Meeting December 1971 Sister Marie Augusta Neal, Hilary Putnam, William Ryan, George Salzman, & Ethan Signer Science for the People’ Vol. 4, No. 2, March 1972, p. 15
  49. A Conversation with E.O. Wilson (1929–2021) Alice Dreger (December 29, 2021) Quillette
  50. 50.0 50.1 50.2 50.3 50.4 On Human Nature Edward O. Wilson (1978) Cambridge : Harvard University Press
  51. The ethological study of man Daniel G. Freedman (1968;4:37-62.) PubMed
  52. 52.0 52.1 52.2 Human Sociobiology: A Holistic Approach Daniel G. Freedman (1979) Free Press.
  53. Daniel G. Freedman (2008) University of Chicago Press Release
  54. The Big Picture, a book review of Consilience by E. O. Wilson H. Allen Orr (October 1, 1998) Boston Review
  55. The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature Steven Pinker (2002) New York : Viking
  56. What Comes Naturally Louis Menand (November 17, 2002) The New Yorker
  57. Navajo people Encyclopedia Britannica
  58. Death by Civilization Mary Annette Pember (March 8, 2019) The Atlantic
  59. The Native American Boarding School System Zach Levitt, Yuliya Parshina-Kottas, Simon Romero and Tim Wallace (August 30, 2023) The New York Times
  60. Genes and Racism Edward O. Wilson (February 19, 1981) Nature
  61. PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award
  62. The 1979 Pulitzer Prize Winner in General Nonfiction: On Human Nature, by Edward O. Wilson (Harvard Univ. Press)
  63. 'Search until you find a passion and go all out to excel in its expression' Alvin Powell (April 15, 2014) Harvard Gazette
  64. Edward O Wilson. My Obituary Tribute to him Richard Dawkins
  65. 65.0 65.1 E.O. Wilson, a Pioneer of Evolutionary Biology, Dies at 92 Carl Zimmer (Dec. 27, 2021) The New York Times
  66. Was the Great Scientist E. O. Wilson a Racist? NO! Michael Shermer (April 27, 2022) Skeptic on Substack
  67. Biology, Destiny and Dissent] Michael Shermer (June 25, 2000) The Washington Post
  68. Wide-Angle Thinker: Evolutionary Psychologist Helen Fisher Discusses Film’s Role Sundance Institute.
  69. 'Wilson,' They Said, 'Your All Wet!' Helen Fisher (October 16, 1994) The New York Times
  70. Mother Jones: Kevin Drum
  71. Nobody Is Defending Phrenology Today Kevin Drum (June 6, 2019) Mother Jones
  72. If you hate the culture wars, blame liberals Kevin Drum (July 3, 2021)
  73. E.O. Wilson died on Sunday, but sociobiology lives on Kevin Drum (December 27, 2021)
  74. Galileo's middle finger : heretics, activists, and the search for justice in science Alice Dreger (2015) New York : Penguin Press
  75. The Evolutionary Ethics of E. O. Wilson Whitley Kaufman (Winter/Spring 2013) The New Atlantis
  76. Activism, Scientists and Sociobiology David Hull (2000) Nature
  77. The Last Word: E.O. Wilson Erik Olsen, James Gorman and Robin Stein (December 27, 2021) The Last Word - The New York Times
  78. E.O. Wilson: Attacked for an Idea EOWilson Biodiversity Foundation - VIMEO
  79. DNA scientist James Watson has a remarkably long history of sexist, racist public comments Julia Belluz (January 15, 2019) Vox
  80. DNA Pioneer James Watson Loses Honorary Titles Over Racist Comments: The renowned scientist has a long history of controversial commentary on not only race, but issues spanning gender, religion and sexuality by Meilan Solly (January 15, 2019) Smithsonian Magazine
  81. Looking Back Looking Forward: A Conversation with James D Watson and Edward O Wilson Harvard Museum of Natural History - YouTube
  82. James Watson and Edward O. Wilson: An Intellectual Entente Harvard Magazine
  83. Race unmasked: biology and race in the twentieth century Michael Yudell (2014) New York : Columbia University Press - "Wilson’s use of Marxism as an intellectual foil to Sociobiology holds great irony..."
  84. Anthropologist Criticizes Sociobiology For Genetic Theory of Human Society Gregory M. Lewis (April 29, 1976) The Harvard Crimson
  85. Theories of culture in postmodern times Marvin Harris (1999) Walnut Creek, CA : AltaMira Press
  86. Stalinist Science by Nikolai Krementsov (1997) Princeton University Press. ISBN 069102877X.
  87. See the Wikipedia article on Yao Tongbin. Yao was beaten to death by Chinese revolutionary guards in 1968.
  88. Genes, mind, and culture : the coevolutionary process Charles Lumsden and E. O. Wilson (1981) Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press
  89. Promethean Fire: Reflections on the Origin of Mind Charles Lumsden and E. O. Wilson (1981) Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press
  90. Stretch Genes P.B. Medawar (July 16, 1981 issue) New York Review
  91. Gene-Culture Coevolution of Complex Social Behavior: Human Altruism and Mate Choice Charles Lumsden, J. Philippe Rushton, Christina H. Littlefield (1986) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
  92. PNAS will eliminate Communicated submissions in July 2010 Randy Schekman (September 15, 2009) PNAS
  93. PNAS: Tighter Editorial Policy Improves NAS Papers by Phil Davis (Jan 14, 2016) The Scholarly Kitchen.
  94. 94.0 94.1 94.2 Scientific publishing: The inside track by Peter Aldhous (2014) Nature 510:330–332. doi:10.1038/510330a.
  95. Sociobiology (First published Mon Nov 11, 2013; substantive revision Thu May 12, 2022) Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  96. The Ionian Instauration — An Interview with E.O. Wilson on His Latest Controversial Book: Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge Frank Miele Skeptic 1998, Vol. 6, No. 1
  97. Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer Leda Cosmides & John Tooby Center for Evolutionary Psychology
  98. Pinker's Progress by Steve Sailer (December 2, 2002) archive of VDARE
  99. Pinker takes no prisoners in defense of evolutionary theory Bruce Ramsey (October 13, 2002) Seattle Times
  100. Every geneticist knows that the "Race doesn't exist" dogma is a convenient PC 1/4-truth. Steven Pinker (February 18, 2013) Twitter (archived from December 23, 2018).
  101. A Tribute to E.O. Wilson (January 16, 2022) City Arts
  102. Darwin's Natural Heir dies at age 92 National Geographic
  103. 103.0 103.1 Edward O. Wilson (1929–2021) Corrie S. Moreau and Naomi E. Pierce (February 3, 2022) Nature
  104. Michael Balter: When the Hagiography Stops and the Truth-Telling Begins: The Legacy of E.O. Wilson (08/02/2022) Uma (in)certa antropologia
  105. The Complicated Legacy of E. O. Wilson Monica R. McLemore (December 29, 2021) Scientific American
  106. Setting the record straight: open letter on E.O. Wilson's legacy Razib Khan (January 18, 2022) Khan's Substack Unsupervised Learning
  107. Scientific American: How to Fix E.O. Wilson's Racist Legacy Steve Sailer (December 29, 2021) The Unz Review
  108. Scientific American, after inviting a multiauthor letter replying to their inane posthumous condemnation of EO Wilson, rejected it; here it is. (I suggested edits on a draft, but kept my name off the list of signatories to make room for others) @razibkhan Steven Pinker (January 20, 2022) Twitter (archived from February 7, 2022).
  109. Scientific American does an asinine hit job on E. O. Wilson, calling him a racist Jerry Coyne (December 30, 2021) Why Evolution is True&nbs;— Coyne's blog
  110. E.O. Wilson, scientific racist, racist scientist. Seriously @sciam What a calumny against one of the least racist (or race science enthusiasts) of our time. Shame on you. Michael Shermer (December 30, 2021) Twitter (archived from March 30, 2022).
  111. The ‘Problematic’ E.O. Wilson Rod Dreher (December 30, 2021) American Conservative
  112. Silencing by the left is a myth." Not counting the ridiculous attempts to silence E.O. Wilson for his groundbreaking work on the evolution of behavior. Lee Jussim (March 6, 2022) Twitter (archived from March 7, 2022).
  113. Philippe Rushton, professor who pushed limits with race studies, dead at 68 John Allemang (November 2, 2012) The Globe and Mail
  114. Peter Thiel - Big Think
  115. Modern-Day Galileo: J. Philippe Rushton (1943-2012) Satoshi Kanazawa (October 10, 2012) Big Think
  116. 116.0 116.1 A Mirror to Mature: Reflections on Science, Scientists, and Society by Peter Knudtson (1991) Stoddart. ISBN 0773724672.
  117. Skin Deep: Journeys in the Divisive Science of Race Gavin Evans (2019) Oneworld Publications
  118. New Evidence Revives Old Questions About E.O. Wilson and Race Michael Shulson (February 16, 2022) Undark
  119. Edward O. Wilson’s special connection to Alabama Mark Kelly (January 18, 2022) Alabama News Center
  120. E. O. Wilson TED
  121. E. O. Wilson's Theory of Everything Howard W. French (November 2011 Issue) The Atlantic
  122. A Conversation with E. O. Wilson Jason Mark (December 28, 2019) Sierra
  123. Video excerpt: Pete Davidson learns of the accusations against Louis C. K. by Alessandro Collins YouTube
  124. Science for the People Archives
  125. Science and ideology Edward O. Wilson Vol. 8, Academic Questions, 06-01-1995
  126. Science for the People Vol. VII No. 6 November 1975]
  127. Mark Borrello Contributor page The New York Review of Books
  128. David Sepkoski Department of History University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  129. Ideology as Biology Mark Borrello and David Sepkoski (February 5, 2022) The New York Review of Books
  130. A Statement on E. O. Wilson and the Rushton Correspondence Joel Johnson (February 15, 2022) E. O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation (archived from February 16, 2022).
  131. And this moron--and I do mean that in the medical sense--seems not to understand that these papers were donated BY WILSON with the understanding they would be read by scholars. He had every right to keep them "private" and chose not to. Sheesh. by David Sepkoski (April 27, 2022) Twitter (archived from April 27, 2022).
  132. 132.0 132.1 On the day of Ketanji Brown Jackson's historic confirmation, @michaelshermer has announced that he's going to vindicate a researcher who argued that Black people are less intelligent and more prone to violence than White people. Let that sink in for a moment. by David Sepkoski (April 7, 2022) Twitter (archived from April 7, 2022).
  133. I just learned that Michael Shermer is conducting a smear campaign against me by contacting scientists and misrepresenting my arguments. This is ironic given that I'm in possession of dozens of letters documenting Wilson doing the same against his sociobiology opponents. 1/3 by David Sepkoski (May 3, 2022) Twitter (archived from May 3, 2022).
  134. A sad day in the history of science when we've gone from problematic "great man" intellectual histories to problematic "evil man" intellectual histories. by Alice Dreger (April 8, 2022) Twitter (archived from April 8, 2022).
  135. This is the same Alice Dreger who sat with Wilson for an interview in which she freely editorialized about Wilson's "mistreatment," suggesting that I'm being overly personal in my work. And tweeted this. David Sepkoski (April 8, 2022) Twitter (archived from April 8, 2022).
  136. Ed Wilson was not just a scientific great, he was a moral great. Here are a few pages from "Galileo's Middle Finger," excerpting the conversation I had with him about being attacked. by Alice Dreger (2022) Twitter (archived image).
  137. Ah, now Jerry Coyne is parroting Shermer's lies and straw men about our essay on Wilson. Apparently "truth" and "evidence" only matter when they don't make you uncomfortable...? David Sepkoski (April 6, 2022) Twitter (archived from 10 Sep 2023 06:20:49 UTC).
  138. I would point out that another feature of the Wilson archive are letters showing that Wilson was coaching Segerstrale as she was writing her dissertation and book, with a lot of back-and-forth personally attacking Gould and Lewontin. I do not regard this as an impartial source. by David Sepkoski (February 6, 2022) Twitter (archived from February 7, 2022).
  139. To be very clear: @michaelshermer alleges that his selective reproduction of Wilson-Rushton correspondence is the complete story. Here are a couple of items he doesn't reproduce, perhaps because they don't fit his disingenuous narrative. David Sepkoski (April 27, 2022) Twitter (archived from April 27, 2022).
  140. 140.0 140.1 Ghosts of Science Past Still Haunt Us. We Can Put Them to Rest. C. Brandon Ogbunu (December 13, 2022) Undark Magazine
  141. Emergency school aid act of 1970. Hearings, Ninety-first Congress, second session on H.R. 17846 and related bills.
  142. For Sociobiology E. O. Wilson (December 11, 1975) The New York Review of Books
  143. Intelligent Evolution E. O. Wilson (November 2005) Harvard Magazine
  144. Anatomy of a Fierce Academic Feud Colin Campbell (November 9, 1986) The New York Times
  145. Taking a Cue From Ants on Evolution of Humans Nicholas Wade (July 15, 2008) The New York Times
  146. I’m Still Reading Andrew Sullivan. But I Can’t Defend Him. Ben Smith (August 30, 2020) The New York Times
  148. The Jim Crow South? No, Long Island Today The Editorial Board (November 21, 2019) The New York Times
  149. The Contemporary Relevance of Historic Black Land Loss Dr. Dania V. Francis, Dr. Grieve Chelwa, Dr. Darrick Hamilton, Thomas W. Mitchell, Nathan A. Rosenberg, and Bryce Wilson Stucki (January 6, 2023) American Bar Association
  150. Charles Murray's AEI profile page
  151. Charles Murray’s Libertarian Vision (March 01, 1997) AEI
  152. Intellectual Stock Picking" by James Traub the New Yorker January 1994
  153. By the way, also here tonight is Charles Murray who I understand has been hard at work on a sequel to The Bell Curve entitled Jazz, the Music Created by Morons. Al Fraken at the 1996 White House Correspondent's Dinner YouTube
  154. In Depth Edward O. Wilson C-Span
  155. The Bell Curve - Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray (1994) Simon & Schuster
  156. Review of Charles Murray's Facing Reality Razib Khan (July 29, 2021) Quillette
  157. (As I frequently tell you Andrew Sullivan is a racist pos.) Soledad O'Brien retweeting Tom Scocca retweeting Andrew Sullivan (May 30, 2021) Twitter
  158. Too Many American Kids Go To College Elizabeth Weingarten (October 11, 2011) Slate
  159. ISIR conference program 2000
  160. ISIR conference program 2001
  161. ISIR conference program 2002
  162. ISIR conference program 2003
  163. ISIR conference program 2004
  164. ISIR conference program 2005
  165. ISIR conference program 2006
  166. ISIR conference program 2007
  167. ISIR conference program 2008
  168. ISIR conference program 2009
  169. ISIR conference program 2010
  170. Razib Khan blog posts Razib Khan (2002) Gene Expression
  171. The Man Behind Prop. 227 Margot Hornblower/Los Angeles (June 8, 1998) CNN
  172. Does Race Exist? Do Hills Exist? Ron Unz (May 22, 2014) Ron Unz – Writings and Perspectives
  173. Sociobiology at Age 25 Steve Sailer (June 19, 2000) The Unz Review
  174. How a Famous Harvard Professor Became a Target Over His Tweets Michael Powell (July 15, 2020) The New York Times
  175. The Evolutionary War Robert J. Richards (October 13, 2002) The New York Times
  176. E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation Strengthens Governance with Addition of New Board Members (October 2, 2012) E. O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation
  177. Why Rationality Requires Incentives | Steven Pinker & Richard Hanania Hanania interviews Pinker (September 27, 2021) Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology
  178. Steven Pinker's Twitter (X) account (archived from March 22, 2023).
  179. i knew pinker followed hanania which is bad enough but oh my god hanania’s is THE ONLY ACCOUNT HE SUBSCRIBES TO Dr. Caitlin Green (August 6, 2023) Twitter (archvied from 12 Sep 2023 03:21:29 UTC).
  180. Our Journey Into Extremism The revealing case of the anti-woke crusader Richard Hanania Zak Cheney-Rice (August 12, 2023) New York Magazine Intelligencer
  181. The Anti-Wokes are Doing us a Favor Jonathan M. Katz (August 28, 2023) Substack - The Racket
  182. 182.0 182.1 Why an Unremarkable Racist Enjoyed the Backing of Billionaires Jamelle Bouie (August 12, 2023) The New York Times
  183. Never answer mailbag questions angry! Matthew Yglesias (January 20, 2023) Substack - Slow and Boring
  184. Yglesias’ tweet here is a great example of what @drvolts is talking abt in thread. “It’s important to read conservatives” means implicitly: Hanania cannot be beyond the pale by virtue of being “conservative” in the abstract. He would not say “It’s impt to read white supremacists” Neil Stenhouse retweeting Yglesias (August 6, 2023) Twitter (archived from 12 Sep 2023 03:28:22 UTC).
  185. Let's play "spot the bigot," with Matt Yglesias Tom Scocca (August 7, 2023) Substack - Indignity
  186. Meet the Renegades of the Intellectual Dark Web Bari Weiss (May 8, 2018) The New York Times
  187. Contrarian - Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley's Pursuit of Power Max Chafkin (2021) Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
  188. What You Didn't Know About IQ | Dr. Kevin M. Beaver and Stefan Molyneux (May 26, 20150 YouTube (archived from June 11, 2015).
  189. She Persisted: Lessons From the Life of Judith Rich Harris David Myers (January 10, 2019) Macmillan Learning
  190. 190.0 190.1 190.2 Biosocial Criminology: New Directions in Theory and Research Editors: Anthony Walsh and Kevin M. Beaver (2009) Routledge/Taylor and Francis Group.
  191. John Paul Wright Professor University of Cincinnati
  192. Clark calls for resignation of Secretary Devos over use of racist policy Kathrine Clark Press Release (April 1, 2019) Katherine Clark 5th District of Massachusetts
  193. The Unz Foundation Tax Form 990-PF (2009)
  194. White? Black? A Murky Distinction Grows Still Murkier Carl Zimmer (December 25, 2014) The New York Times
  195. American Racial Boundaries Are Quite Distinct (For Now) Razib Khan (December 25, 2014) Gene Expression Blog on Unz Review (archived from December 27, 2014)
  196. The Sam Harris Debate - Ezra and Sam Harris debate race, IQ, identity politics, and much more. Ezra Klein (April 9, 2018) Vox
  197. EZRA KLEIN: EDITOR-AT-LARGE Sam Harris (March 27, 2018) Sam Harris blog
  198. A Tale of Two Bell Curves Bo Winegard and Ben Winegard (March 27, 2017) Quillette
  199. Sam Harris Lights Career On Fire In Ezra Klein Debate (April 11,2018) The Michael Brooks Show - YouTube
  200. Peter Thiel says Ron DeSantis would 'make a terrific president' Cheryl Teh (May 4, 2023) Business Insider
  201. Using Frederick Douglass to Rationalize Slavery? In Florida, Yes! Charles M. Blow (August 16, 2023) The New York Times
  202. Ron DeSantis bans African American studies class from Florida high schools Abené Clayton (January 19, 2023) The Guardian
  203. Muzzled by DeSantis, Critical Race Theory Professors Cancel Courses or Modify Their Teaching Daniel Golden (January 3, 2023) ProPublica
  204. A Full-Force Storm With Gale Winds Blowing (October 16, 2004) Edge
  205. Jeffrey Epstein: International Moneyman of Mystery by Landon Thomas Jr. (2002) New York Magazine
  206. 206.0 206.1 Remarks at NBER Conference on Diversifying the Science & Engineering Workforce Lawrence H. Summers (January 14, 2005) Office of the President
  207. Steven Pinker: “I Manage My Controversy Portfolio Carefully” Interview by Steven D. Levitt (August 21, 2020) Freakonomics Podcast
  208. Academic Freedom is Social Justice: Sex, Gender and Cancel Culture on Campus Carole Hooven (2023) Archives of Sexual Behavior
  209. President of Harvard Resigns, Ending Stormy 5-Year Tenure Alan Finder, Patrick D. Healy & Kate Zernike (February 22, 2006) The New York Times
  210. I hope that university presidents will defend academic freedom by echoing these sentiments. Leading journals like @Nature gatekeep tenure for young scholars and publications in them can determine career paths for older scholars. Lawrence H. Summers, retweeting a Quillette article by Bo Winegard (August 28, 2022) Twitter (archived from August 29, 2022).
  211. Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936 to 1938 Library of Congress
  212. Minnesotan Albert Henry Woolson was the last surviving Civil War veteran (September 23, 2019) Mary Laine Minnpost
  213. A Brief History of Jim Crow Constitutional Rights Foundation
  214. Interview of Richard Rhodes by Simon Winchester Leon Levy Center for Biography
  215. I wanted to point out that Pulitzer-winning historian Richard Rhodes just published a biography of Wilson with @penguinrandom that missed Wilson's views of race because he didn't visit the archive. Something we would require a beginning PhD student to do. David Sepkoski (February 10, 2022) Twitter (archived from February 10, 2022).
  216. Interview with E. O. Wilson Bill Moyers Journal (July 6, 2007) PBS.
  217. U.S. Approval of Interracial Marriage at New High of 94% by Justin McCarthy Gallup (September 10, 2021)
  218. A Conversation With E.O. Wilson (March 31, 2008) NOVA, PBS.
  219. Was E. O Wilson a Racist? No! by Michael Shermer (Apr 27, 2022) Skeptic.
  220. Jean-Philippe Rushton Southern Poverty Law Center
  221. Journal retracts more articles for being "unethical, scientifically flawed, and based on racist ideas and agenda" (2021) Retraction Watch
  222. Against "Sociobiology" Elizabeth Allen, Barbara Beckwith, Jon Beckwith, Steven Chorover, David Culver, et al. (November 13, 1975) New York Review
  223. Cultural materialism : the struggle for a science of culture Marvin Harris (1979) New York - Random House
  224. Sociobiology: Another Biological Determinism R. C. Lewontin (1980) International Journal of Health Services
  225. The Scientist Who Wrote Rings Around The Earth by Joel Achenbach (May 21, 2002) The Washington Post.
  226. Sociobiology: the art of storytelling Stephen Jay Gould (November 16, 1978) New Scientist
  227. Darwinian Fundamentalism Stephen Jay Gould (June 12, 1997) The New York Review of Books
  228. Evolutionary Psychology: An Exchange Steven Pinker, Werner Kalow, and Harold Kalant, reply by Stephen Jay Gould (October 9, 1997) New York Review
  229. The Problems with Evolutionary Psychology P. Z. Myers (2019) YouTube
  230. Adapting Minds: Evolutionary Psychology and the Persistent Quest for Human Nature David J. Buller (2005) MIT Press.
  231. The Fault in Our DNA David Dobbs (July 10, 2014) The New York Times
  232. A Troublesome Inheritance Nicholas Wade (2014) Penguin Random House
  233. The Liberal Creationists Steve Sailer (April 30, 2014) Taki's Mag (archived)
  234. Manhattan Institute for Policy Research
  235. The New Lysenkoism Nicholas Wade (January 28, 2022) City Journal