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Razib Khan: A Geneticist and the Alt-Right

Razib Khan

Oh, the company he keeps. Or kept, anyway. Here’s an interesting footnote about Razib Khan. He is the National Review contributor and PhD candidate in genetics who lectures fellow conservatives about how they shouldn’t “fear” evolution since it is a “crowning achievement of Western civilization.” If Khan’s name rings a bell, it might be because he made headlines several years ago when he was dismissed by the New York Times a day after being brought on as a regular contributor. The cause? They realized he had been canoodling with the racist alt-right for a decade.

In general, blackballing and guilt by association are unfair, and they are out of control in our culture at the moment. I would much rather err on the side of tolerance and forgiveness. However, contributing to vile publications like The Unz Review and Taki’s Magazine, even if you write nothing racist or anti-Semitic yourself, certainly raises questions.

Sage Counsel

Here is Khan’s sage counsel about “evolution deniers”:

A small number of skeptical intellectuals such as [Michael] Behe, as well as the circle around the Discovery Institute, will continue to carry the torch of evolution skepticism. A number of evolutionary biologists will engage with them directly, as they always have. But looking forward, the energies of the Right are not most fruitfully spent on debating descent with modification and the common origin of life.

Uh huh. So when Yale’s David Gelernter, one of the most brilliant minds on the Right, enters the evolution debate, as he did this month with his great essay “Giving Up Darwin,” just ignore him. Got it.

Jews and Vulcans

Was Khan unaware of what was going on around him at the alt-right magazines? He spoke to the online journal Undark:

Khan said that he used to be more tolerant of those perspectives. “Obviously, I don’t condone it,” he said. When I observed that standing by silently — and even linking to [Steve] Sailer’s work — seemed like the definition of “condone,” Khan hesitated. “In terms of being at Unz, I was probably there too long,” he said.

“Probably there too long”? Gee, do ya think so? Actually, today his name is still on the Unz homepage, at the very top of the list of “ARCHIVED BLOGS AND COLUMNS,” juxtaposed with newer stories including “‘The Holocaust’ Is a Myth That Conceals Our Shame,” “9/11 Was an Israeli Job,” “America’s Jews Are Driving America’s Wars,” reflections on the “Old Testament, Israel’s Trojan Horse inside Christianity,” and the current banner article at the top promoting the “magisterial” scholarship of Holocaust denier David Irving. I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that this was all a colossal misunderstanding, that he demanded that Unz take him off their putrid site, but was rebuffed. More:

Unz was not Khan’s only link to the emerging alt-right fringe. In 2009, Khan spent a year blogging for Taki’s Magazine, a white-supremacist site, at the invitation of Richard Spencer. There, Khan wrote posts about everything from genes to Freud to Jewish intelligence. In one back-and-forth, he and Spencer analyzed the resemblance between Jews and the Vulcans in Star Trek.

This fall Spencer made national news after he organized a rally in Washington, D.C. that featured Hitler salutes and cries of “Hail Trump!” But Spencer “was not a white nationalist then,” Khan told me. (Recent reporting on Spencer documents him pivoting toward open support for white nationalism around the beginning of 2009, the same time that Khan joined Taki’s.)

A Romance with Darwin

For more on white nationalism and its special romance with Darwinism, see here and here. Razib Khan would also benefit from watching John West’s documentary, Human Zoos, through to the end where the connection with the alt-right is similarly established. Of course, any good idea can be terribly abused. For all that Darwinian theory has been advanced as a justification for modern horrors, that by itself doesn’t count against the possibility of the theory being true.

Even if a shallow thinker, with his thesis that evolution and conservatism make a wonderful match, Khan is probably a perfectly decent guy. In fact, several leading figures at alt-right journals — Taki Theodoracopulos, Peter Brimelow, and the aforementioned Steve Sailer — were writers whose work I enjoyed editing at National Review in the 1990s. That was before they took off in these unfortunate directions, parting ways with mainstream conservatives. They were all very talented and pleasant to deal with.

Khan evidently enjoyed such company more recently. Yet here he is urging that it is Darwin skeptics who should be avoided! Thanks, pal, but I am sorry: anyone who spent years trafficking with The Unz Review has at the very least a problem with judgment. From his National Review article alone it was possible to discern as much. For more on that, see the earlier comments here by Michael Behe, Paul Nelson, and myself.

Photo: Unite the Right rally, 2017, by Evan Nesterak [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.