News and Notes

A Statement on E.O. Wilson and the J. Philippe Rushton Correspondence

Edited April 18, 2022.

Recently, new inquiry into the papers of E.O. Wilson (1929 – 2021) reveals his correspondence (1978 – 1995) with a discredited racist psychology professor, the late J. Philippe Rushton. The majority of Rushton’s research in this arena has not withstood peer review, and therefore is not published. In 2002, Rushton left academia to head the Pioneer Fund – a nonprofit started to study hereditary and human differences, categorized by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a Hate Group. Professor Wilson’s correspondence with Rushton has not been fully investigated* by the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation; however, we acknowledge and recognize Rushton’s work has been labeled as racist and was withdrawn from several academic publications. We acknowledge E.O. Wilson’s correspondence with and apparent support of Rushton’s career is hurtful and harmful.

The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, its Board of Directors and staff reject Professor Wilson’s support of Rushton. We acknowledge the insidious effects of systemic racism. Such structural racism, whether operating intentionally or unintentionally, bestows unfair race-based advantages and deleterious, even malicious effects on others. Professor Wilson’s apparent defense of Rushton’s line of inquiry without examining the implications of the harm it could cause to people is one such effect. 

The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation does not condone or support racism, in any form, nor does it tolerate it from staff, partners, and contractors. We acknowledge that centuries of racism, violence, discrimination and marginalization, including in the sciences, have obstructed participation of Black, LatinX, Indigenous and Asian people and communities of color in conservation and elsewhere, and we commit to be part of breaking this cycle.

To read our full statement on Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (J.E.D.I), visit the homepages of www.halfearthproject.org and www.eowilsonfoundation.org.

The mission of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation is to foster stewardship of the natural world taking inspiration from E.O. Wilson’s work in biogeography and call to protect Half-Earth in order to sustainably support biodiversity and all of life. The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation does not work in the area of sociobiology; however, we recognize the totality of E.O. Wilson’s legacy. We embrace his scientific leadership and convening voice on the importance of biodiversity to the long-term health of our planet and ourselves.

E.O. Wilson wrote in the 2004 edition preface to On Human Nature, “…most scientists have long recognized that it is a futile exercise to try to define discrete human races. Such entities do not in fact exist. Of equal importance, the description of geographical variation in one trait or another by a biologist or anthropologist or anyone else should not carry with it value judgments concerning the worth of the characteristics defined.”

We are committed to working toward diversity, equity and inclusion in our leadership, our programs, our strategic planning, our operations, our communications and our fundraising. We are engaged in J.E.D.I. training to help us build equity in our programs, and make the training available to staff. We are a diverse group dedicated to achieving inclusive and representative leadership and partnership. We are committed to protecting global biodiversity and the web of life in an equitable, ethical way through an inclusive and just path that empowers and amplifies the voice of those communities most impacted by environmental challenges. We make the science of the Half-Earth Project open and available to everyone to use, to inform what more they can do to protect the species of their place and beyond, and to address the extinction crisis threatening all of humanity. And we are committed to welcoming robust examination and reflection on the legacy of E.O. Wilson. 

Sincerely,

Paula J. Ehrlich, DVM, PhD

CEO & President, E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation

Co-founder, Half-Earth Project

*The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation has since reviewed the correspondence since the publication of our statement in February, and our position has not changed. We will continue to examine and reflect on the opportunity to demonstrate our values as we carry-out our mission.

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