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Transcript of a short clip in which John Maynard Smith states that, because of their Marxist beliefs, neither he nor J.B.S. Haldane was initially willing to admit that genes might influence human behaviour

A short clip of the late John Maynard Smith talking about political and ideological commitment in science was brought to my attention by James Robertson. Here is the full transcript:

Why is it that Hamilton, having had the sort of essential notion, really ran with it, really made it an important part of our biological understanding? Whereas Haldane had the notion and did nothing with it. I understood the notion and did nothing with it. And I do think, I have to put it down to some extent to political and ideological commitment. Hamilton had the advantage over us in…


Based on the criteria that have been used to cancel other deceased luminaries, there is no reason to believe that Darwin is immune from cancellation

[Updated: 9th September, 2020.]

Recent weeks have witnessed the defenestration not only of Confederate generals, slave-traders, colonialists, Founding Fathers and Union generals, but of many academic luminaries too. The following scientists and philosophers have all been subjected to actual or attempted defenestrations: Sir Francis Galton, Sir Ronald Fisher, Karl Pearson, Clarence Cook Little, Carl Vogt, Edward Drinker Cope, J. Marion Sims, H. C. Yarrow, Carl Linnaeus and David Hume.

In a recent op-ed, I argued that even Charles Darwin might not be safe, given that his writings “contain ample statements that would put him far beyond the pale of what…


Evidence suggests that geographic and socio-economic factors may not be sufficient to explain non-white Britons’ elevated risk of death from COVID-19

It has been widely reported that non-white Britons (as well as non-white Swedes and black Americans) are overrepresented among those who have died of COVID-19. In a recent paper, Robert Aldridge and colleagues computed standardised mortality ratios for all major ethnic groups in the UK. Compared to the general population, the age-adjusted risk of death was 4 times higher for Pakistanis, 4 times higher for Bangladeshis, 2.6 times higher for Indians, 5.7 times higher for black Africans and 3.7 times higher for black Caribbeans.

The causes of these disparities are not yet well-understood. As a consequence, the government has launched…


One reason elite colleges focus on “diversity” is to distract attention from the fact that the students they admit are overwhelmingly from wealthy backgrounds

Achieving “diversity” on campus has been a priority at US colleges ever since the landmark decision in University of California v. Bakke (1978), when the Supreme Court ruled that “the goal of achieving a diverse student body is sufficiently compelling to justify consideration of race in admissions decisions under some circumstances.” This ruling was upheld in another landmark decision, that of Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), when the Court reaffirmed that “student body diversity is a compelling state interest that can justify the use of race in university admissions.”

In recent years, the goal of achieving “diversity” (which is generally taken…


Considers the total number of life-years that could be lost to coronavirus disease in the UK, under different assumptions

The Imperial College report published on 16 March stated that there could be “hundreds of thousands of deaths” from coronavirus disease in the UK if no measures were taken to actively suppress the epidemic. (Note that one could have obtained a figure of about this size via a simple back-of-the-envelope calculation: 66 million people x 50% prevalence x 1% mortality = 330,000 deaths.)

However, it has been claimed (e.g., on Twitter and elsewhere) that most of these deaths will afflict people who would have only lived another year or two anyway. This claim appears to be based on the fact


This page lists quotes from various scholars concerning how we should deal with the fact that individuals and populations differ from one another genetically

“Modern advocates of a more far-reaching material equality usually deny that their demands are based on any assumption of the factual equality of all men. It is nevertheless still widely believed that this is the main justification for such demands. Noth­ing, however, is more damaging to the demand for equal treatment than to base it on so obviously untrue an assumption as that of the factual equality of all men. …


Analyses the reasoning employed by Judge James Tayler in his judgement on the claim brought by Maya Forstater against her former employer

As is now well-known, thanks to the tweet by J.K. Rowling that went viral, a woman called Maya Forstater recently brought a claim against her former employer, CGD Global, in the employment tribunal. Specifically, Ms Forstater claimed that the charity discriminated against her on the basis of her philosophical beliefs when it refused to renew her contract, following a series of comments she made on social media about sex and transgender.

Judge James Tayler, who heard Ms Forstater’s claim, concluded that her particular belief, namely that “sex is biologically immutable” and therefore that “trans women are men” (see Paragraph 77)…


Responds to arguments in a recent blog post by Ewan Birney, Jennifer Raff, Adam Rutherford and Aylwyn Scally

In a recent “explainer” on “Race, genetics and pseudoscience”, Birney et al. argue that a small number of researchers “have seized upon some of the new findings and methods in human genetics” to make “misleading” arguments about “racial groupings” and the “alleged genetically-based intelligence differences between them”. Their blog post “aims to provide an accessible guide for scientists, journalists, and the general public for understanding, criticising and pushing back against these arguments.”

After the publication of Birney et al.’s “explainer”, there followed a lively debate on Twitter, which included commentary from some individuals who one might assume are among the…


This page lists all recent petitions and open letters targeting individual academics or small groups of scholars

[Last updated: 24th August, 2020.]

In recent years, a phenomenon has arise in which a large number of scholars get together to denounce one of their colleagues via an open letter or online petition. All cases of which I am aware are listed below. To qualify for inclusion, the letter or petition must: target an individual academic or a small group of scholars; criticise the academic work or sociopolitical views of the target; and be signed by at least five academics.

  1. Thomas Schelling & Robert Aumann — denounced for, respectively, encouraging the “coercive use of military force” and using “his…

Noah Carl

Independent researcher

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