Shocking Shockley

This week’s Science (29 May edition) has an unintentionally hilarious short piece.

Seems Auburn, California wanted to name a park after local-boy-done-good William Shockley, the guy who invented the transistor. The park would have been named “Nobel Laureate William B. Shockley and His Wife Emmy L. Shockley Memorial Park.”

Well, somebody found out even smart people can believe dumb things and that Shockley “proclaimed the intellectual inferiority of black people and favored involuntary sterilization for people with low IQs.”

Kahl Muscott was incensed that people in the past like Shockley didn’t have his modern sensibilities and is—what else?—protesting. He wants to rename the park and put up a placard that reads, “This park is dedicated to people of all races, ethnicities, beliefs, education levels, intelligences, and walks of life who wish to live together in peace & harmony.” (It goes on—I kid you not—to say something about Barrack Obama.)

Say, Muscott, when you say “all beliefs”, do you mean the diverse beliefs “black people are inferior” and that “those with low IQs should be involuntarily sterilized”?

Accepting Shockley would be a true demonstration of DIVERSITY, would it not? Condemning him is an acknowledgment that not all beliefs are acceptable, that there should be limits to them, and that it is only a question of where to draw the line.

I suggest drawing it right at the Nobels by appointing a zampolit—a political officer—-for each branch of the award so that no more embarrassments like Shockley occur. And all those who do not meet the standard of modern political purity should be posthumously stripped of their awards, in fairness—and sensitivity—to the Muscott in all of us.

Thus, Einstein (treated his wife badly) and Feynman (hung out in strip clubs) have got to go, them being rank misogynists. Enrico Fermi (war sympathizer) and Werner Heisenberg (Nazi) have no excuses. And word has it that Wolfgang Pauli didn’t like short people. Out they all go.


  1. Kahl Muscott is simply following the narrative presented by Those Who Care. There is no need for their fable to be logical, only that it bow to the altars of diversity and Obamanism. Since Muscott’s meme freely fulfills this requirement his opinion is be respected and followed. Shame on you, Matt, for suggesting otherwise.

  2. George

    As it’s not black-and-white, can distasteful opinions be rated according to how significant your positive contribution has to be to make up for the politically incorrect views?

    How bad could someone like Einstein have been yet still be revered? Perhaps he could have had a mistress, beaten her too, kept a slave… His scientific contribution was rather large, but probably not enough to give him carte blanche.

  3. “Thus, Einstein (treated his wife badly) and Feynman (hung out in strip clubs) have got to go, them being rank misogynists.”

    How odd! Like Feynman, I admire the female form and enjoy the company of women; especially those who are not ashamed of their body. Surely a misogynist would *avoid* the company of women.

    Shockley was far from alone in his advocacy of eugenics. Its supporters included Theodore Roosevelt, the Democratic Party, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association and the National Research Council. Prior to WWII, there was a widespread consensus that eugenics, the scientific improvement of the human race, was A Good Thing. Somewhat akin to Saving the Planet by diminishing the quality if life for those unfortunate enough to have been born in the Third World. Sigh…

  4. Colin

    I am a long time lurker and this is my favourite blog, never had much to add previously. Possibly the most shocking case of a horrifying Nobel prize winner is that of Daniel Carleton Gajdusek. He won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1976 for work on kuru the first prion disease described (Prions are the agents used in the transmission of diseases such as CJD). It then transpired that he was a paedophile. I have just watched a documentry on the BBC called the “Genius and the Boys”. It was fascinating seeing his peers who still respected his intellectual achievments but terrifying as it had him justifying himself as being morally correct shortly before his death.

    cheers Colin

  5. tesla

    “Those who care” are quite selective in what historical figures get the unsavory components of their biographies amplified and what figures have their blemishes erased. From mainstream media sources you’d be hard-pressed to learn that Mahatma Gandhi was a fierce supporter of racial segregation and the caste system, that Martin Luther King Jr. plagiarized substantial portions of his doctoral thesis, or that Nelson Mandela was a Communist terrorist.

  6. Pompous Git said something that reminded me Margaret Sanger was also an avid Eugenicist, and out of the goodness of her heart organized “The Negro Project” in 1939 to persuade blacks to not have so many children. Heartwarming.

  7. Briggs

    Then there is R.A. Fisher founder of modern statistics and genetics. An ardent eugenicist.

    But what do you expect from the guy who invented the p-value?

  8. Stefan

    Great post, and exactly the point. Those who promote Post-modern “diversity” often overlook their own judgmental stance. They claim that it is wrong to judge others’ beliefs but they themselves judge others’ beliefs.

    They are also typically anti-hierarchy and anti-elitism, even whist they naturally consider their Post-modern diversity-loving ethics to be the most ethical and highest stance.

    But being anti-racism and anti-sexism and so on, they are generally good people, it is just that they take their judgmental principles a bit too seriously and feel they it is their personal mission to root out all oppression…. which smells a bit of shadow projection issues.

  9. David C.

    My experience, living in a “diverse” neighborhood points to a kind of New Speak approach to the subject. “All beliefs” means “few beliefs”. “Diverse” means “outwardly different but inwardly identical”. “Affordable housing” means “someone else pays”.

    In real life this becomes double plus ungood for our social values.

    David C.

  10. Doug M

    Strip the Nobel prises from Einsein, Fermi, Feyman, and Heisenberg and give them to deserving women and minories.

    Only 4 women have won the award in chemisty or phisics — none in Economics. This is a clear indication of blatant sexism on the part of the Nobel committee. Futheremore, no women have won the award in last 40 years, provinging that it is just getting worse.

    Peace and literature show some signs of ballance and diversity.

    Assar Arifat won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.

  11. Briggs

    Doug M,

    It’s okay in economics, because there is no Nobel prize. There is the Swiss Bank’s award “in honor” of the Nobel.

    A good trick, that. Now few know that there is no economic Nobel, and the Swiss Bank’s awardees have the patina of having won the grand prize. I’m suprised other groups have not yet tried it (well, they might have, but I don’t know of them).

  12. Doug M

    It looks like a Nobel, and it smells like a Nobel, and it walks like a nobel, but it is the Bank of Sweden award in honor of Afred Nobel. Read what NN Taleb has to say about the “Nobel” in Economics. He has particular hatred for Merton and Scholes.

    Mathmaticians like to whine about not having a nobel. They have some bizzare exuses as to why not. e.g. Nobel’s wife had an affair with a mathematician (Nobel was a bachelor). Then they say that the fields medal is more prestigious because they are given only once every 4 years.

  13. Joy

    Stefan, I agree. It’s a sort of neurosis of it’s own. We all judge, or we wouldn’t be able to choose which shoes to wear in the morning, and that would be a bad thing. There’s not a human being on the planet without prejudice. There’s not enough, though, who are prepared to intervene when cruelty does occur. Thanks, in part to the neurotic society that shouts, “shut the door” while their coming in the window, like changing a sign in a park. I wonder what the other inventors of the transistor think!

    So neurotic are the people making the rules that teachers and dinner ladies are not allowed to intervene when children are fighting or being bullied because they are not allowed to touch the children, even to separate a fight. I’d lose my job on the first day, sod the rules, excuse me. This attitude is born of neurosis about paedophilia. A terrible thing, that should not need to be said! The result is that the children become more delinquent, they know that the authorities are not allowed to stop them.
    At work recently there was a nine-year-old boy, who was allowed out for the first time on his own to walk home from school. A gang of other children set upon him, stamped on his leg, and fractured his Tibia. When a child falls over and cries, he must not be comforted with a cuddle, not as much as a hand on the shoulder. What sort of effect do the psychologists tell us that ought to produce on an individual? This is opression in my view; nurturing sociopathic behaviour and very cruel.

    That is the sort of youth that the liberal society has brought upon us. I can say that when I was nine, I went to a school in East London. There was nothing of this level of violence around then. Far far less acts were dealt with severely and the children revered, yet respected and loved the head master, Ken Aston, the inventor of the red and yellow card system used in football today. I loved him, he was about twenty feet tall, had large ears and was never to be crossed.

  14. woodNfish

    Everyone jumps on Shockley just because he was trying in his own way to raise the IQ level of our society. Shockley was very concerned that some day our dumbed down nation might be stupid enough to elect someone named Barack Obama. Oh, wait…

  15. Kahl Muscott

    From Kahl Muscott
    I just came across this blog. I can assure you that I never made the comments attributed to me in this blog. It is possible they were made by the many people that commented on this issue, however the comments never came from me.
    Kahl Muscott

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