Well what about Francis Crick? Should we destroy his bust, revoke his Nobel Prize, rename the Francis Crick Institute, and tarnish his many honors? And should we do the same for Jim Watson, already in disgrace for some racist comments he made a few years back, and now totally demonized to the point that he’s deplatformed if he tries to speak about anything? (I’m not aware of Watson being a “proponent of eugenics”, but I may have missed something.)
I don’t think so. In the net, the contributions of these two men were positive, despite Watson’s continuing emission of unsavory comments (not just about races, but about women). Remember, too, that Crick’s comments were in private letters. There is no evidence I’m aware of that he spoke or wrote publicly about eugenics, despite the fact that he had a ready platform to do so.
Further, Crick did more than just discover the double-helical structure of DNA with Watson (and with data from Wilkins and Franklin; see below): as Matthew wrote the other day, he formulated the “Central Dogma,” suggested the existence of transfer RNA, helped work out the genetic code, and was the first to suggest that protein sequences (and by implication DNA sequences) could be used to deduce evolutionary relationships of species. Both Matthew and I have written other posts about Crick’s remarkable brain and its accomplishments—see here, here, and here, for example.
It is fatuous to suggest that we should demonize Crick and “revisit” his monuments because of a few remarks he made in private letters, remarks whose context isn’t given. Even if Crick thought there might be a genetic IQ gap between blacks and whites, or suggested some form of voluntary sterilization, those were never public remarks. If you want to argue that those private statements in letters are sufficiently bad that they outweigh the good that Crick did, well, you’re welcome to, but you’ll be on shaky ground, accusing him of Thoughtcrime.
And then you’ll have to start in on people like Darwin (as A. N. Wilson just has) for his few remarks about “savages” and their substandard mentality. Darwin was a man of his time, and did have bigoted views, but he was also an ardent abolitionist—not the usual viewpoint of his contemporaries. Because of those views, should we dig the bugger up from Westminster Abbey and turf him into an anonymous grave? Should we tear down the Darwin statues or put them in inconspicuous places, as Wilson appears to suggest? I don’t think so. If you start down the road that tries to remove Darwin and his accomplishments from history—and Wilson has done just that in his new biography—then you’re on the road to perdition.