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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!»

Cancel culture

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