Last week the world lost one of the true greats of biology—E.O. Wilson, who died at age 92. While known to the public primarily for his work on ants and later as a leading popularizer of conservation biology, Wilson was also perhaps the first major target of what many now call “cancel culture,” a topic frequently discussed in the pages of Quillette. With the publication of his 1975 book Sociobiology, Wilson marched head-first into a minefield of political correctness by tackling the popular conceit that human minds are “blank slates” shaped entirely by environmental factors. Wilson's dangerous idea, now accepted by nearly all modern (competent) biologists, is that human behavior, psychology, and even aspects of morality must be viewed, at least in part, as products of natural selection.
Pushing back against blank slate psychology and the excesses of environmental explanations for human behavior has been a core theme in Quillette since its founding, and we owe brave and pioneering thinkers like E.O. Wilson gratitude for their steadfast commitment to telling the truth on such volatile topics. We are therefore delighted to have been able to publish for our readers a never-before-seen 2009 interview with E.O. Wilson by author and historian Alice Dreger, who met with Wilson routinely when performing research for her 2016 book Galileo's Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and One Scholar's Search for Justice.
This week we bring you a fascinating collection of articles that touch on culture, art, and science, as well as a list of Quillette's top 10 most popular articles of 2021. This week's podcast episode features New York Times opinion columnist Ross Douthat.
For a more detailed account of E.O. Wilson's early encounters with cancel culture, as well as an analysis of a new post-mortem attempt at cancelling Wilson published in Scientific American, see essays by UnHerd Senior Editor Ed West and evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne in the “Around the Web” section below.
Thank you for your continued support, and we look forward to bringing you new and interesting content in 2022 and beyond.
From Around the Web
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