Bo Winegard, Fired For Science

It’s not as if he were arguing that the earth is flat or gravity doesn’t exist. Still it cost him his job as a tenure-track professor.

My troubles began in October 2019 when I was invited to address an evolutionary group at the University of Alabama. I had decided that I would discuss human population variation, the hypothesis that human biological differences are at least partially produced by different environments selecting for different physical and psychological traits in their populations over time. I planned to defend this view as most consistent with a Darwinian understanding of the world.

Sound crazy or like, well, science?

My first day in Tuscaloosa was uneventful. On the second day, I visited a class and had an enjoyable discussion with students about various topics, including human evolution and social signaling. I was then supposed to meet professors and students for lunch, but instead my guide delivered me to an empty room where I received a number of texts from my host: The professors had found my RationalWiki entry, which accuses me—inter alia—of writing “racist bullshit for the right-wing online magazine Quillette.”

So some woke profs chose to take offense at the fact that Bo wrote at Quillette, which was enough to taint him so badly as to make being in the same room as him unacceptable. His post-lunch presentation went poorly, as he was attacked as a racist, and an article in the student newspaper followed suit.

My lecture, they explained, was “non-scientific” (it formed the basis for an article that passed three reviewers at a professional psychology journal) and they had been unaware of what I planned to say (I had provided them with an outline of my talk at least two months in advance, which they had approved). And as soon as controversy arose, they denounced me and my expressed views (most of which are undisputed in the relevant literature), and explained that the invitation they had extended had been a mistake.

All things considered, his trip to Tuscaloosa wasn’t as productive as he might have hoped. Unfortunately, but unsurprising these days. Had it ended there, it would have been another example of the crazy campus shenanigans that, we’re told, don’t really happen. But it didn’t stop there.

When the newspaper article was emailed by persons unknown to my university’s provost and president, I was called for a meeting. They were not terribly pleased, but the meeting was uneventful and I was told to be more strategic in my navigation of such a sensitive topic. I agreed that I would try. A few months later, however, someone using a pseudonym began emailing my provost, my president, and my entire department (but not me) links to my articles (including those written for this outlet) and screenshots of “offensive” tweets. My anonymous accuser held me to be guilty of all kinds of treachery and threatened to inform the board of trustees of my sins.

Then came another meeting, this time not so cordial, but not necessarily tragic either. Bo had published a paper and twitter, being twitter, pushed back.

As it turned out, the article provoked a minor fuss on Twitter, but nothing that caused any noticeable concern at work. I was enormously relieved. My colleagues and I had managed to write about human population variation and the world hadn’t come to an end.

So when it happened, Bo was blindsided.

A few days later, however, my boss informed me, without any warning, that the college was not renewing my contract—in other words, they were firing me. I don’t know if my paper was the proximate cause of my firing, but in the light of the foregoing weeks’ tumult, it was plausibly the last straw.

As a non-tenured prof, the college was absolutely entitled to choose not renew Bo’s contract. Maybe he was just too high-maintenance, given the nature of his research and writing and the reaction to it, and the school administration didn’t need another headache. They might not have cared one way or the other about the substance of his research, whether it was contrary to the current trend of science only in the cause of social justice or just for the sake of science.

But either way, if the nature of his research, and the reaction to it, played a role in his dismissal, it raises the same problem.

I followed all of the protocols of academia. I published articles in peer-reviewed journals. I shared my ideas, always politely, on Twitter, and I encouraged people to debate me and to criticize my ideas. And I was fired. If it can happen to me, then it can happen to any academic who challenges the prevailing views of their discipline. You may disagree with everything I believe, say, and write, but it is in everyone’s interests that you support my freedom to believe, say, and write it.

I saw Bo’s twits, and agreed with him at times and disagreed at other times. He was always thoughtful, even though he raised issues that challenged the progressive orthodoxy. Now he’s unemployed.

Some may say that his flaw was being too controversial before getting tenure, after which he could be crazy as a loon and never have to worry that his position in the Academy is at risk. On the other hand, Bo’s views are hardly outside the pale of rational science, and yet he’s unemployed. There’s a message here to young academics who might not toe the line and want to remain in the good graces of their bosses. Having a job matters, as does academic freedom, but you can’t enjoy academic freedom if they fire you as an academic.

22 thoughts on “Bo Winegard, Fired For Science

  1. Richard Kopf


    I feel very badly for this young man. If his Google Scholar citations metrics* are any indication, he is not a wack job.

    All the best.


    All 2015
    Citations 714 584
    h-index 14 13
    i10-index 19 17

  2. MollyG

    I read his articles at Quillette, and while he dresses up his ideas in academic language, he believes that there are biological differences between the races which explains the societal and wealth gaps between the races in this county. He denies the seriousness of racism in modern society. The administration probably felt that it was too much of a risk that he would allow he beliefs to affect how he treats minorities in his classroom. The college getting rid of him was not unreasonable from a risk-minimization perspective. Violation of “academic freedom”, yes; understandable move to protect the school. also yes.

    1. SHG Post author

      The administration probably felt that it was too much of a risk that he would allow he beliefs to affect how he treats minorities in his classroom.

      Your characterization of his research and writing aside, that’s an astounding series of leaps.

      1. Black Bellamy

        I would like to make a further leap and advise the college that using the maximalist risk-minimization strategy outlined above it’s simply prudent for the institution to fire everyone, raze all the buildings and salt the earth. Why take a chance?

    2. Pedantic Grammar Police

      “he believes that there are biological differences between the races”

      Firing isn’t good enough; he should be stoned.

    3. Grant

      Here are the headlines of his articles in the Quillet index, which are indicative of the content:

      Progressivism and the West
      “Equalitarianism” and Progressive Bias
      The Spirit of Centrism
      Centrism: A Moderate Manifesto

      In those articles, his thesis is that you shouldn’t drink the koolaid that either the left or right are offering. He also describes himself as a former progressive that is still more left than right.

      So I am wondering: Is there an article I’m missing where he wigs out? Is there a section I missed where he describes his racist beliefs? How do you justify saying he believes “there are biological differences between the races which explains the societal and wealth gaps between the races in this coun[r]ty”? Where does he “den[y] the seriousness of racism of modern society”?

      1. Pedantic Grammar Police

        A believer who denies even a single tenet of the true faith is substantially more dangerous than a heathen. Of course he must be made an example of. The alternative is chaos.

        “There can be nothing more dangerous than those heretics who admit nearly the whole cycle of doctrine, and yet by one word, as with a drop of poison, infect the real and simple faith”

        -Pope Leo XIII, 1896

    4. Rengit

      “The administration probably felt that it was too much of a risk that he would allow he beliefs to affect how he treats minorities in his classroom. The college getting rid of him was not unreasonable from a risk-minimization perspective.”

      Where do people get this idea that a scholar’s research represents *a risk to his students, and consequently a legal risk to the university*? Hostile environment theory is very limited, it doesn’t and was never intended to set up academic/research/scientific orthodoxies. Seriously, this stuff has been litigated over and over from the end of the 80s, throughout the 90s, and up to the present with speech codes, and judges noted that hostile environment/fighting words justifications for the speech codes weren’t enough to possibly render entire fields like evo psych or IQ research verboten. Any barely competent university general counsel or legal department knows this, so the “risk-minimization” argument is sophistry and not made in good faith.

      1. Richard Cownie

        A lot of people are making assumptions about the reasons for Bo’s non-renewal,
        seemingly including Bo himself.

        If Marietta College adheres to AAUP recommendations, Bo has the right to request
        either oral or written reasons for his non-renewal. Unless and until he makes such a
        request, Marietta has the obligation to remain silent about those reasons, because
        revealing the reasons is not necessarily in Bo’s interest in seeking future employment.

        If he makes the request and Marietta provides written reasons, the both Bo and
        Marietta would have an obligation to divulge that information to prospective
        employers on request. The risks of that for the ex-employee should be obvious.

        With that in mind, I do have some personal curiosity about this line in Bo’s statement
        “My anonymous accuser held me to be guilty of all kinds of treachery”, which is not
        at all specific about the nature of those accusations, nor how his bosses reacted to
        those allegations, whatever they might have been.

        None of this is determinative, I will make just two points:

        1. Unless/until Bo makes a formal request for the reasons, no-one knows for sure,. and
        no-one can infer anything from Marietta’s silence, which is entirely appropriate.

        2. There may be another shoe to drop if the accusation of “all kinds of treachery”, whatever it was, was involved in Marietta’s decision.

        I’m basing this commentary on a straightforward reading of the AAUP’s
        recommendations for the handling of non-renewal decisions. But I welcome
        detail or correction from anyone with relevant experience in this area.

        1. SHG Post author

          Would you expect Marietta to inform Bo that it’s because his research is icky or that random people from other schools called him bad names? Any idiot can come up with a benign excuse not to renew a asst prof’s contract. That doesn’t mean Bo is right, but it doesn’t mean he’s wrong either. From my understanding that he was publishing at a strong pace and his class reviews were excellent, it lends support to his claim.

          As to his “treachery” comment, I agree. Absent details, it’s unhelpful hyperbole at best and may conceal concerns that are more legitimate than he wants known at worst.

    5. Doug Fawcett

      “he believes that there are biological differences between the races which explains the societal and wealth gaps between the races”

      I hate to tell you this, Molly, but that’s true, and geneticists can prove it. As long as the progressive position is “read my lips, no biological differences!”, you will always be in retreat from science. What you, and many others with that view, don’t seem to appreciate is that it’s perfectly possible to know that there are biological differences and still believe that people are entitled to equal dignity and individualized treatment. It’s absurd to suggest, without any evidence, that knowing genetics would prevent him from treating students according to their actual personal abilities.

      1. Raccoon Strait

        Of course there are biological differences between races. Hell, there are biological differences between people of the same race. What’s that stuff they use to identify and convict people? Oh…yeah…DNA, and they tell us everyone’s is unique.

  3. L. Phillips

    “And although I am but one professor at one small college in one small town, I want to persuade you that, if you care about free speech and free inquiry in academia, you should be alarmed by my termination.”

    The problem with that argument is that there are a great many hidebound ancients like myself out here who don’t care and aren’t alarmed. The truly cynical among us find it morbidly amusing. In my vocation probies fresh out of the academy who voice opinions on how the institution that just funded their uniforms, gear, and professional education should be changed to suit their preferences are given two alternatives:
    (a) resign, pay the filing fee, and run for sheriff, or
    (b) shut up and do the scut work that is assigned to all new troops until you have the experience and, hopefully, the wisdom to shepherd change through to completion.

    It appears to me that brother Bo chose to skip both steps which he is certainly free to do. Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead. But the torpedoes were real, the ship sank in full view of anyone who cared to look, and now he is trying very hard to make himself a martyr for violating rule (b) or it’s non-tenured assistant professor employment agreement equivalent.


    1. SHG Post author

      Your point is well taken, and that is, indeed, a pervasive problem these days. To the extent there’s any worthwhile retort, it would likely be a very different outcome had his views been more politically palatable on campus.

    2. Steve White

      L. Phillips – but nothing in Winegard’s account indicates he voiced any opinion about how the institution should be changed, and in fact, it is the institution changing, in response, often, to people who have done no scut work at all, undergrads, who are still IN the academy, which seems to have lead to his problems. Your comment seems totally off base. And expressing his opinion, based on his scholarship, peer reviewed and all that, IS his job, which may not be true in your vocation, it is not true in most, but it’s true in academia – well, in theory anyway, of course depending on what his opinions are.

      1. L. Phillips

        Hello Steve. Thank you for that last sentence. I suppose I could have said that he was trying to change an institution by challenging it to grow a pair and accept, even support, findings outside the ever metastasizing woke catechism, but you did a much better job of explaining it.

  4. Jay Man

    If liberal students need to be protected from Bo Winegard’s triggering ideas and Sam Harris’s triggering ideas, then conservative Christian students need to be protected from the triggering idea that humans evolved from apes. But that’s dumb, right?

    And no, it’s actually not a false equivalency–it’s irrelevant that evolution is proven true and Bo Winegard is scientifically dubious. Obama would fiercely defend Bo Winegard’s right to be heard. So would Bill Maher, so would Neil deGrasse Tyson.

    Students who don’t like what he’s saying SHOULD attempt to dismantle his arguments as a peer reviewer would, not as a 1700s religious-zealot name-caller would. (Pretty sure Winegard’s detractors are the same ones who pretend Steven Pinker is part of the alt-right, but never actually read anything he wrote.)

    If you don’t like Bo Winegard, Charles Murray, Sam Harris, or Steven Pinker “Argue with em. But don’t tell them you’re too delicate to hear what they have to say.” Obama said that. If Obama’s reading this, his face is in his hands due to the way the authors of this article (and Marietta College) treated Bo Winegard.

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