The Crafoord Prize for 2015 was awarded to Richard Lewontin and Tomoko Ohta, for their discovery that there was very much more genetic variation that had been expected. Lewontin discovered this using protein gel electrophoresis to study a number of loci in Drosophila. It’s an important result. The problem is, virtually everything he’s said and done since that time has been a pile of steaming ideological crap. He has argued that the distribution of genetic variation in humans (more within-population variation than between-population variation) means that populations can’t really be very different. Except for skin color ( just a few alleles), height (Pygmies exist and really are short), brain volume, etc etc. The argument is crap: you need to look at allele frequencies weighted by their phenotypic effects. One funny allele like EDAR370a contributes an infinitesimal amount to interpopulation genetic variation, but it sure makes a difference. Mild differences in the frequency of a few hundred alleles can cause big differences in highly polygenic traits. I’ve talked about this, here and here.
Lewontin has criticized adaptationism, but as far as I can see, that was all crap too – not least The Spandrels of San Marco ( a big paper by Lewontin and Stephen J. Gould, yet another graduate of Commie Martyrs High School) . I am of course not joking in calling Lewontin a Marxist – he says so himself – and it matters, because Marxism makes you stupid. Not just a fanboy of mass murderers – it fucks you up. Lysenko was a feature, not a bug.
Which is why he does silly things, like oppose hybrid seed corn as a creation of the bloated lackeys of the imperialist toy-mongers.
Why he does he deny the results of behavioral genetics, particularly the high heritability of IQ? The same reason that Marc Feldman does – because he doesn’t like those results, what else? There’s nothing like bringing up an argument that could be true in some other world, but just happens not to be in this one. Couldn’t populations that do poorly in one environment have superior performance in another? Sure – but there’s no existing environment where that reversal actually happens. The rank-ordering on IQ is the same everywhere.
For a long time, Richard Lewontin has done his level best to increase the sum total of misinformation in the world, not without success. That’s what I used to think, anyhow – but there may be another explanation.
This complicates the question of suitability for the prize. Generally, being some kind of asshole is not considered relevant in considering this kind of prize. That seems fair: it’s the work that matters, not your bad breath or devotion to the Lost Cause. But what is the right course when the same person who did the excellent work spend most of his career trying to corrupt that same field?
Others have faced a similar question: what’s the right way to acknowledge Benedict Arnold’s early contributions to the American Revolution, before his treason?
This statute commemorates Arnold’s service and wounding at the battle of Saratoga – without mentioning his name.