A Conversation with E.O. Wilson (1929–2021)

Alice Dreger in Quillette:

Alice Dreger: I know you’ve spoken about it many times before, but I would like to begin by asking you about the session at the 1978 AAAS [American Association for the Advancement of Science] conference during which you were rushed on the stage and a protester emptied a pitcher of water onto your head. By all accounts, the talk you then gave was very measured. How on Earth were you able to remain so calm after being physically assaulted?

Edward O. Wilson: I think I may have been the only scientist in modern times to be physically attacked for an idea. The idea of a biological human nature was abhorrent to the demonstrators and was, in fact, too radical at the time for a lot of people—probably most social scientists and certainly many on the far-Left. They just accepted as dogma the blank-slate view of the human mind—that everything we do and think is due to contingency, rather than based upon instinct like bodily functions and the urge to keep reproducing. These people believe that everything we do is the result of historical accidents, the events of history, the development of personality through experience.

That was firmly believed in 1978 by a wide part of the population, but particularly by the political Left. And it was thought at the time that raising the specter of a biological basis for human behavior was not only wrong, but a justification for war, sexism, and racism.

More here.