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Letters of support for Krylov et al.

Several letters of support for the article “Scientists must resist cancel culture” by Krylov et al. reached the editors—among them one from Nobel laureate Arieh Warshel. A selection of these letters is published here. 

Arieh Warshel

Nobel laureate, Member, National Academy of Sciences, HonFRSC
Dana and David Dornsife Chair in Chemistry
Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
University of Southern California, Los Angeles

«The viewpoint piece by Krylov et al., published in Nachrichten aus der Chemie, bravely confronts a grave threat to science: a modern, grass-roots ideology with authoritarian tendencies commonly known as “Cancel Culture”. The authors illustrate the detrimental effects on science that such an illiberal intrusion can have with examples from history, including the Soviet regime and National Socialism. Professor Krylov (the lead author) has informed me that you have received at least one allegation that using National Socialism as an example somehow anti-Semitic. The attitude of Nazi Germany towards science is relevant, as the Nazi definition of the relativistic theory as “a Jewish science” saved us from the disaster of Hitler having an atomic bomb. In fact, it is an excellent example of the risk of having nonscientific gudgments of science, rather than any anti-Semic argument. I am a Jew, and having read the article now twice over, can detect no hint of anti-Semitism in it whatsoever. Parenthetically, accusing Anna Krylov of anti-Semitism is absurd. I have known her for many years, and she has taken a lead roll in combating anti-Semitism here at the University of Southern California, where we are both professors.
The issue of the intrusion of Cancel Culture into science is pressing and there is an urgent need to have it publicly aired and discussed. Cancel Culture, by its very nature, will attempt to silence its critics, so vigorous objections to the paper and attacks on its authors are not surprising. I applaud you as editor and Wiley as publisher for initiating an important discussion of this issue.»

Lee Jussim

Distinguished Professor
Department of Psychology, Rutgers

«I am writing to express my strongest possible support for your decision to publish the recent paper by Krylov et al., “Scientists must resist cancel culture”. Its analysis of the history was brief, but well-done. It clearly distinguished the present from the horrors of the past. It nonetheless justifiably rang bells of alarm about rising censoriousness in academia. Well done! I have heard that the authors have been accused of antisemitism. I am not only Jewish, antisemitism is one of my areas of scholarship (along with stereotypes & prejudice; and political radicalization). If history teaches us anything about antisemitism, it is this: societies that condone authoritarian abridgement of basic human rights are the ones that are most perilous for Jews.
Societies that resist pressures to abridge fundamental human rights (such as free speech, free expression, and academic freedom) typically have provided the safest socio-political contexts for Jews.
Krylov et al.’s purpose may not have been to defend Jews, but, indirectly yet powerfully, it did just that by advocating against censorship.»

Jerry Coyne

Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolution
The University of Chicago

«I understand that the Krylov et al. paper on Cancel Culture in science has been published, and your journal is getting a lot of pushback, including accusations that Krylov et al. were being anti-Semitic by comparing the ideological policing of science under totalitarian regimes, including the Soviets and the Nazis, with what is going on today. First of all, I don’t think it trivializes the Holocaust to say that the Nazis based it, and a lot of their other odious actions, on false science. What else was their treatment of “Jewish science” and expulsion of Jewish professors but anti-Semitic, based on false ideas about science? Krylov et al. were certainly not saying that science ideologues today are like Nazis, or will produce a genocide, but only that there are dire consequences of politicizing science, and our best efforts must go towards keeping science free from politics. The Lysenko affair is another example, as certain subjects are now becoming taboo in the same way that “Medelian-Michurist genetics” were to Lysenko and Stalin. The accusations that the article and the authors are anti-Semitic is palpably ridiculous. I, for one thing, am Jewish, and I am very sensitive to anti-Semitism and write about it a lot on my blog, and have been vehemently opposing it and calling it out for years. But I see no anti-Semitism here. I also know Anna pretty well and am collaborating on a paper with her. I have never seen a trace of anti-Semitism in her.
It is an ad hominem argument to say that this paper trivializes the Holocaust and is, in essence, anti-Semitic. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see what Krylov et al. are trying to say with these comparisons. I hope your journal treats them fairly, for their thesis is sound and it is unworthy to tar them with the brush of anti-Semitism. I wouldn’t want to think that your journal is participating in Cancel Culture itself by catering to the social media mobs that descend when an article like this appears. I applaud you for publishing it!»

Achim Günther

Anna I. Krylov, Jay S. Tanzman, Gernot Frenking und Peter M. W. Gill fordern in ihrem Aufsatz “Scientists must resist cancel culture” [Nachr. Chem. 2022, 70, 12], daß die Wissenschaft allen Formen von Zensur widerstehen und den Grundsatz des freien Austauschs von Ideen verteidigen müsse. Eigentlich scheint diese Forderung selbstverständlich. Aber an den Beispielen Thomás Hudlický, dessen Aufsatz über Organische Synthese von der Website der Angewandten Chemie 2020 nachträglich entfernt wurde, und Dorian Abbot, der am MIT einen Vortrag über Leben auf anderen Planeten halten sollte und nach einer Kampagne politischer Gegner wieder ausgeladen wurde, zeigten die Autoren, wie aktuell ihre Forderung ist. 

Der moralische Rigorismus der Anhänger der „cancel culture“ speist sich aus ihrer Überzeugung, auf der richtigen Seite zu stehen. Ich entsinne mich noch eines Liedes aus meiner FDJ-Zeit: „Sag mir, wo Du stehst“. Darauf kam es an! Selbstverständlich für Frieden und Sozialismus. Heute kommen diese Tendenzen aus den USA, weshalb sie meist englische Namen haben. Neben der schon erwähnten „Cancel Culture“ sind das z.B. „#MeToo“, „LGBT“, „Black Lives Matter“, Fridays for Future“, Extinction Rebellion“ und viele andere. Sie treten ein für eine lebenswerte Zukunft, gegen Sexismus, Rassismus, Diskriminierung und Ausgrenzung – außer natürlich für politische Gegner, die müssen diskriminiert und ausgegrenzt werden. Deswegen werden eingeladene Referenten wieder ausgeladen, werden Straßen umbenannt, Denkmäler abgerissen oder beschmiert und die Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald hat ihren Namen abgelegt. 

Sinnigerweise ist dem Artikel in den „Nachrichten“ ein Foto vorangestellt. Es zeigt u.a. drei Bücher, darunter George Orwells „1984“. Daraus ein Zitat: „Wer die Macht über die Geschichte hat, hat auch Macht über Gegenwart und Zukunft.“ Und darauf kommt es den Anhängern der Cancel Culture an. Deswegen müssen wir ihnen um unserer Kinder und Enkel willen widerstehen. Sich dem Zeitgeist – neudeutsch Mainstream – zu widersetzen, verlangt jedoch Zivilcourage. Das ist eine rare Tugend. Spontan fällt mir nur ein einziges Beispiel ein, wo Naturwissenschaftler Zivilcourage gezeigt haben:

Entgegen einem Verbot der Reichsregierung wurde am 29. Januar 1935 von Max Planck, dem Präsidenten der Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft, eine Trauerfeier für den ein Jahr zuvor verstorbenen Fritz Haber im Harnack-Haus in Berlin abgehalten. Plancks listige Begründung war für Nationalsozialisten schwer zu widerlegen: Er hat uns die Treue gehalten. Wir halten sie ihm.

Kultusminister Bernhard Rust verbot allen staatlichen Bediensteten und damit den Professoren die Teilnahme. Auch der Verein Deutscher Chemiker, ein Vorgänger der GDCh, verbot seinen Mitgliedern die Teilnahme. Einige wie Richard Willstätter, Lise Meitner, Max Delbrück, Fritz Straßmann und Hermann Franz Mark setzten sich jedoch über die Verbote hinweg. Carl Bosch erschien mit allen verfügbaren Direktoren der I.G. Farben und Otto Hahn hielt die Festansprache.  

Karl O. Christe

Research Professor,
University of Southern California

«Two recent publications by Hudlicky (1), and Krylov, Tanzman, Frenking, and Gill, (2) and the public reactions to them prompt my letter. I have grown up in Germany under the Hitler regime and barely survived an Allied artillery attack in 1945. My father, a science teacher, was drafted into the German Army despite his age because of voicing his opposition to the Nazi regime and was killed in 1944 in Belgium. I immigrated to the US in 1962 to live in a free and more tolerant society. I have worked for the chemical industry (Stauffer Chemical) for 5 years, Rocketdyne for 27 years, the Rocket Research Laboratory at Edwards AFB for 10 years, and have been associated with the University of Southern California since 1994. Based on my life-long direct experience with industrial, governmental, and academic research, I feel well qualified to comment on some personal observations made during my long professional career. Tomas Hudlicky was ostracized for his views on hiring practices and training of scientists and the integrity of the literature, resulting in the removal of his paper from the literature as being politically incorrect (1) and the punishment of the editors and reviewers who had approved his publication. Having read the Hudlicky paper carefully, his conclusions agree with my own personal observations. I have witnessed many examples of reverse discrimination. Starting 50 years ago under the pretense of “equal opportunity”, the aerospace industry had to meet quotas of promoting minority employees to higher management positions to qualify for government contracts. Due to the scarcity of qualified candidates, these positions frequently had to be filled with lesser qualified applicants. These trends have persisted since then, although some of the acronyms have changed over the years. For example, I was denied funding of an NSF proposal despite two “outstanding” and one “very good” evaluation because the reviewer of the “very good” evaluation had downgraded my proposal from “outstanding” to “very good” because my small group of only four scientists, including one physically severely handicapped colleague, did not include a minority person. Other examples include several highly talented postdoctoral fellows who for years could not even get any interviews in response to their many applications for tenure track positions because they were white males. They finally succeeded to find positions in Sweden and Canada. The discrimination against white males is pervasive, and many posted advertisements for open positions state that the hiring is restricted to underprivileged minority members. The most used justification is DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) (3). While I full-heartedly support these principles to foster the development of underrepresented and disadvantaged minorities to enable them to successfully compete for advanced positions, the actual hiring decisions must be made based exclusively on the qualifications of the candidate and should not involve any kind of reverse discrimination. This discrimination against non-minority scientists has permeated not only hiring procedures but also promotions and awards. Professional societies tend to ensure that half of the awardees are women and members of minorities and frequently stipulate that the awards must be given preferentially to these groups to fulfill certain quotas based on demographics. Again, this constitutes real discrimination. I have served on many nomination and award committees and have witnessed this again and again. I also share Hudlicky’s concern about the integrity of the literature, particularly with respect to Chinese papers. These concerns have also been documented in papers published in the Wall Street Journal (4) and Nature (5). Being a reviewer of countless Chinese manuscripts, I have encountered many cases of unethical publication practices. In the past, these practices were often caused by the payment of substantial personal monetary rewards for publications in top Western journals, but recently have been discouraged by China’s science and education ministries (6). This brings me to the second point. Krylov, Tanzman, Frenking, and Gill advocate free speech and a free exchange of opinions and ideas in science. They deplore the suppression of opinions which some consider to be politically incorrect by using public media instead of civilized factual discussions. I fully support their stance against censorship and the cancel culture and their defense of Tomas Hudlicky. Our society has become increasingly intolerant, resorting to personal attacks and ostracizing others who do not share their opinion. This must stop.
1) T. Hudlicky, “ ‘Organic synthesis—Where now?’ is thirty years old. A reflection on the current state of affair”. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2020, DOI:10.1002/anie.202006717. The above article, published online on 4 June 2020 in Wiley Online Library (, has been withdrawn by Angewandte Chemie by agreement between the journal’s Editor in Chief and Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim with the following explanation. “The withdrawal has been agreed as the opinions expressed in this essay do not reflect our values of fairness, trustworthiness, and social awareness. It is not only our responsibility to spread trusted knowledge, but to also stand against discrimination, injustices, and inequity. While diversity of opinion and thoughts can spur change and debate, this essay had no place in our journal.”
2) A. I. Krylov, J. S. Tanzman, G. Frenking, P. M. W. Gill, Nachr. Chem. 2022, 70 (2), 12-14.
3) For a definition of DEI see
4) E. Xiao, The Wall Street Journal, July 5, 2020.
5) H. Else, R. Van Noorden, Nature 23 March 2021, 591, 516-519.
6) S. Mallapaty, Nature, 28 February 2020, 579, 18-21. »

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