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It is written on the margin of the first page of this document,
that this lecture by Joshua Lederberg was excepted [sic] for publication
in SCIENCE, August 21, 1969. This document may be found on Joshua
Lederberg's NLM web site, identified as with the ID:
Being a famous, and even a very capable geneticist, does not necessarily confer an intelligent and knowledgeable view of different branches of science. Being a famous, and even a very capable geneticist, may even less so confer any intelligent or educated view of the humanities. 1 A case in point is the paper above concerning Shockley's accusation of "Lysenkoism". At the outset, what Joshua Lederberg has written seems well intentioned, but is it well informed?
J. Lederberg clearly confuses (does not even acknowledge), that there are different views concerning racism. Specifically, Joshua Lederberg defines racism as being based upon different inheritable characteristics that are associated with the different genetic distributions that characterize subpopulations. Another, far more prevalent view of race, is that it is an ideology. The confusion of "genetic distributions of subpopulations" with ideological viewpoints has a name: "scientific racism". Thus Joshua Lederberg is espousing scientific racism here. Furthermore, not only does it appear that Joshua Lederberg is not conscious of this confusion, he ascribes the same confusion to Shockley. Joshua Lederberg is of the opinion that everybody accepts his authority as a believer in scientific racism.
Is there a reason why a respected geneticist such as Joshua Lederberg would hold to so ignorant a position publicly? We are fortunate in that Joshua Lederberg has also supplied us with the reason why. 2
1 In a University of Wisconsin Oral History interview given in 1998, Joshua Lederberg is paraphrased (page 52, paragraph 330) as follows:
"In terms of the effect the Nobel prize had on his career [...] [Joshua Lederberg] notes it probably gave him a standing outside of the immediate scientific area he would have not have had otherwise. [...] When a Nobel winner talks about scientific topics in public — sometimes quite inappropriately — [his words are] credited with likely being true."
In the same interview (page 3, paragraph 218), Joshua Lederberg was also paraphrased as saying the following:
"Upon entering Columbia, [Joshua Lederberg] had determined that his majors were going to be biology and chemistry. He enrolled in a number of graduate courses as a freshman which, he said, was for the best, since he was not mature enough to appreciate the humanities -- which he put off taking until later in his undergraduate career. [Joshua Lederberg] notes he did exceptionally well in the sciences, but the rest of his cultural experiences were not far ahead of his chronological age."
Perhaps the scientific racism that Joshua Lederberg espouses, is a consequence of his intellectual weakness and lack of learning in the humanities, as opposed to an overt form of hatred?
2 In "A Viewpoint of Aspects of a History of Genetics" by William Hayes, Dr. Hayes recalls the following:
"I met Joshua on two subsequent occasions, after he had been awarded the Nobel Prize with George Beadle and E. L. Tatum in 1958 and had moved to Stanford University. During an evening at his Stanford home he told me that the Prize had confronted him with a choice, either to continue in active research or to use his prestige to influence the progress of science in broader and more administrative ways, and he thought he would take the latter step but without losing touch with genetical research. At that time he had become involved in exobiology and was, if I remember, on a NASA committee concerned with the detection of life on Mars."
Special note should be taken of the fact that "without losing touch with genetical research" means keeping up with the research being done in genetics after 1958, but does not imply actually doing any research in genetics. Thus, we may safely conclude that the kind of papers published after 1958 were not the products of Joshua Lederberg's own research (at best he was merely a signatory to papers after 1958), and that papers such as "Shockley's Accusation of Lysenkoism" and his work in exobiology were not the product of research.