The Current State of Undergraduate Bayesian Education and Recommendations for the Future

This post is by Aki

Mine Dogucu and Jingchen Hu arxived in September a paper The Current State of Undergraduate Bayesian Education and Recommendations for the Future with an abstract

With the advances in tools and the rise of popularity, Bayesian statistics is becoming more important for undergraduates. In this study, we surveyed whether an undergraduate Bayesian course is offered or not in our sample of 152 high-ranking research universities and liberal arts colleges. For each identified Bayesian course, we examined how it fits into the institution’s undergraduate curricula, such as majors and prerequisites. Through a series of course syllabi analyses, we explored the topics covered and their popularity in these courses, the adopted teaching and learning tools, such as software. This paper presents our findings on the current practices of Bayesian education at the undergraduate level. Based on our findings, we provide recommendations for programs that may consider offering Bayesian education to their students.

It’s not mentioned in the abstract, but based on the references “U.S. News (2021a), ‘2021 Best national university rankings’” and “U.S. News (2021b), ‘National liberal arts colleges’” the current state is only about US research universities and liberal arts colleges.

Anyway, I highly recommend checking out their paper as in addition to the survey of the state, they make recommendations for the future:

  1. Expand the access to Bayesian courses
  2. Make Bayesian courses a part of the majors
  3. Balance statistics with computing
  4. Use a variety of assessments

It’s easy for me to agree with these, as I’ve been doing these for years: 1) I’m making my course available for everyone, 2) my course is optional in Data science BSc major (and some other majors), and required in Machine learning / AI MSc major at Aalto University (the course is quite advanced, and we’re missing an intermediate course at BSc level, so that’s why it’s only optional at BSc level), 4) I use a variety of assessments. Especially, I like the subpoints in the recommendation 3:

  1. Introduce simulation-based learning early in the course.
  2. Encourage students to write self-coded MCMC algorithms for relatively simple multiparameter models
  3. If the course puts equal emphasis on computing and modeling, consider adopting one of the popular probabilistic programming languages for Bayesian model estimation through MCMC (e.g., JAGS and Stan).
  4. If the course has a slightly stronger emphasis on modeling over computing, consider introducing one of the wrapper packages for Stan for its simpler posterior summary procedure (e.g., rstanarm and brms).

I have been including all these in my course (except JAGS), so I’m already in the future :D

I’m also happy to see that the most commonly required or recommended book is still 8 year old “Bayesian Data Analysis”.

Dogucu and Hu end their paper with

Last but not least, we invite current and future Bayesian educators to join the undergraduate Bayesian education network, an online community that fosters discussions of undergraduate Bayesian education.

28 thoughts on “The Current State of Undergraduate Bayesian Education and Recommendations for the Future

  1. I think recommendation #1 is not exclusive to Bayesian methods, but to any kind of quantitative reasoning. Indeed, I think the chief advantage to a Bayesian approach in statistics is its emphasis on building models that actually generate data like the data you observe. There is no better way to experience this than through simulation. Simulation and model-building connect the world of “data” with its underlying causes that we are actually care about.

    While I love BDA, I must also heartily recommend John Kruschke’s “Doing Bayesian Data Analysis” as a first introduction to Bayesian methods, since I think it does a good job focusing on this model-building aspect.

    To me, the main challenge is that computing and model-building need to be taught together. As recommendation #2 implies, I think this is actually a good thing since then students get to see how logic is realized in code as well as how code represents a concrete process. So while I think this is a challenge, I prefer it to the challenge in traditional stats which is that the logic of hypothesis testing and the math of things like CLT, sampling distributions, etc., is all jumbled together.

    • Agree ” actually generate data like the data you observe. There is no better way to experience this than through simulation. Simulation and model-building connect the world of “data” with its underlying causes”

      That needs to be talked and written about more often – so my recent blurb below:

      The way in which I try to cast statistics (as of today):

      Science is thinking, observing and then making sense of thinking and observing for some purpose. Making sense is formalized in assessments of what would repeatedly happen in some reality or possible world. If it would repeatedly happen (a habit either of an organism, community or physical object/process), it’s real.

      Statistics can be defined as formalizing ways to learn from observations using math (i.e. using models). Unfortunately what is taken as abstract statistical work is too often misunderstood mathematics where it’s representational role has been suppressed or overlooked. Models or assumptions are often just taken as the price one has to pay to obtain statistical outputs like p-values, confidence intervals and predictions. Unavoidable just like taxes. However, they are representations of some reality beyond our direct access. Even if only implicitly.

      It is always the case that given we have no direct access to reality, reality must be represented abstractly in our heads. Given that we must think about reality using abstractions, we can only notice aspects of those abstractions. These need to not be confused with the reality they just attempt to represent, in some meaningful way for some purpose. The veracity of any statistical method depends on an implicit abstract fake world being not too wrong. That is too different from the “real” world for the given purpose in some meaningful way.

      Mathematics is required to discern exactly what an abstract object or construction implies. Taken as being completely true, what follows? However, mathematics as it is usually taught and written about can be a formidable barrier for most. Even those with an undergraduate degree in mathematics may have only learned to “get used to it” rather than actually understand it. That is, they can do the calculations correctly but do not know what to fully make of the results. But mathematics has many mediums and one in particular can perhaps be grasped most widely by researchers. This is because, as CS Peirce pointed out, the object of mathematics is some or all hypotheses concerning the forms of relations in the abstract construction. All mathematical knowledge thus has a hypothetical structure: if such and such entities and structures are supposed to exist, then this and that follows. Fortunately there a many ways to discern what follows.

      CS Peirce further defined mathematics as the manipulation of diagrams or symbols taken beyond doubt to be true – experiments performed on abstract objects rather than chemicals – diagrammatical reasoning. Here diagrams more than symbols have been argued to be more perspicuous (an account or representation more clearly expressed and easily understood or lucid). Diagrams are arguably the medium of mathematics most can grasp. An abstract diagram is made, manipulated and observed to understand the diagram much more thoroughly. Recently they have been accepted in the mathematical community as being rigorous – Visual Reasoning with Diagrams https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-0348-0600-8

      By far the main mathematical constructions in statistics are probability models. These can easily recast as diagrams which then can easily be automated and animated with computer simulation, given modern computation. Once probability models are recast as diagrams then then the diagrams themselves can be used to generate the pseudo-random variables needed for simulation. This generating can be inefficient but is valid and much easier to grasp than other ways. This transforms the understanding of probability into experiments performed on diagrams just using simulation all the way down. Those abstract mathematical probability models are best understood in terms of what would be repeatedly drawn from them and simulation does the repeated drawing. I believe that simulation provides a profitable mechanical way of noticing aspects of probability and statistics where the learning about a model is clearly and fully distinguished from what to make of observations in hand. And it involves very little mathematical skill but rather just the ability to think abstractly. But there is no free lunch, it needs to be worked with, experienced and reflected on.

      Models take elements and relations among them in the represented world [that produced the data] and map them onto elements and relations in the representing world [probability world]. This requires transporting what repeatedly happens given a model, to what reality happened to produce this time. In the second we can know exactly what we are learning about (the probability model), in the first (the world) we can only guess or profitably bet about it. Those guesses are informed by what repeatedly happens in the probability world. However, it is really just replacing the medium or form of mathematics (a means to understand an abstract representation, the aim of which is to infer necessary conclusions from hypothetical objects) with something more concretely experimental and hence potentially self correcting with persistence. Thereby better facilitating self verification more widely with less mathematical skill.

  2. Hopefully courses like this will less to the occurrence of graduates from stats programs who never had a course in Bayes who have learned enough about Bayes on the own to believe it’s wonderful but not enough to do it critically and wisely.

    • I am ambivalent about recommendation #2. I don’t think it is necessary to introduce code writing in an introductory class, especially if it is more dedicated to data analysis and modeling. MCMC is just a tool to conduct Bayesian inference. I personally prefer to introduce the fundamentals of Bayesian thought and leave the details of coding to later classes. Stan (and Jags) are useful at that regard, as it is easy to give the idea of what’s happening behind the curtains without requiring intense code debugging. On the contrary, I often encounter students also in later classes that think that computing is all that matters in Bayesian Analysis.

      • One of my favorite topics! And one that will no doubt be contested. I personally don’t believe it is necessary to introduce code writing in any introductory statistics, data science, or data analysis course. I’m not saying that code writing isn’t important or even necessary – but I don’t see it as a critical necessary skill for the first course. And coding has value in itself as a critical thinking skill – just not critical to understanding data. I’d much rather have the course focused on thinking about data, understanding patterns, the nature of random variation, the importance of measurement, and the relevance and limitations of evidence. Along with that some understanding of causal reasoning. None of these necessarily require coding – although, depending on the instructor and the audience, coding may well be used to further these goals. I just don’t happen to need that. A somewhat more controversial belief may be that I think that coding can get in the way of these fundamental ideas. It need not do so, but I’ve seen too many cases where code is thought to be equivalent to making sense out of data. I don’t think it is necessary or sufficient for that.

        • > thinking about data, understanding patterns, the nature of random variation, the importance of measurement, and the relevance and limitations of evidence

          OK but those of us who believe simulation is the most effective way to get that across to most people, some small amount of coding is required for people to experiment and experience simulating on their own to understand.

  3. We are doing this in a required research methods course in Psychology, but it doesn’t have “Bayesian” in the title or course description, so it would not show up in their analysis, from what I can tell.

        • Fisher sympathized with at least one Nazi, Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, in the most literal possible sense. Claiming he wasn’t a Nazi sympathizer requires redefining either sympathy or Nazi, or else just ignoring facts of history.

        • 1) If I sympathize with a single person in category X, then I am an “X sympathizer?” That is crazy. There is not a single Communist or murderer or racist or thief or plagiarist that you have ever sympathized with? What a stunted moral life you must lead!

          2) For a balanced read about Fisher and the accusations made against them, see this Nature article.

        • D:

          Some background is here from historian Richard Evans:

          Before and after the war, Fisher corresponded with Otmar Baron von Verschuer, an eminent German “racial hygienist” and PhD supervisor of the notorious Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele. . . . Fisher remained on friendly terms with Verschuer after the war, as the American historian Bradley Hart noted in his Cambridge PhD thesis (2011), and tried to arrange a post-war visit to Britain for him, complaining to Verschuer in 1948 that “It does not seem to be at all easy to arrange a visit to this country. There has evidently been a good deal of denigration, which I do not believe has any substantial basis”.

          The “denigration” to which he referred was publicity given to Verschuer’s close collaboration with Mengele, of which Fisher cannot have been ignorant. However, Verschuer destroyed sufficient incriminating evidence to ensure that the International War Crimes Tribunal’s attempts to bring him to trial for crimes against humanity came to nothing. He reinvented himself as a “geneticist” and resumed his career in post-war West Germany with some success.

          During the time that Fisher lived, lots of people in Britain and elsewhere were supportive of various Nazi ideas as well as being supportive of individual Nazis. It’s not really an “accusation” against Fisher; it’s just part of his life. Looking at things in retrospect, we could say he had the bad luck to have scientific and political views that aligned with some notorious war criminals. Lots of scientists back then were Communist sympathizers too.

        • 1) As we have discussed before, Evans is not overly reliable on this topic.

          2) Let me quote the relevant passage from the much better Nature article:

          Fisher’s interaction with the Nazi-supporting medical geneticist, Verschuer

          There are two further incidents related to racism, on the basis of which Fisher has been criticised. The first concerns his interaction with the German human geneticist Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, who has been strongly condemned because of his involvement with Nazi racial policies, most horrifyingly directed against Jews (Weiss 2010). Fisher first corresponded with Verschuer in early 1938 concerning a visit to London, which Verschuer made in June,1939, remarkably less than 3 months before the start of World War II (letters to Verschuer 1938-03-10, 1939-05-27). Fisher’s next contact was in 1947 when Verschuer approached him, as he did many others (Weiss 2010), for a reference in support of his post-war campaign to re-establish his position as a human geneticist by being made a professor in the University of Frankfurt. In reply, Fisher wrote “Please let me know if I can do anything to help you.”…“something in the nature of a certificate of character, i.e. an assertion that I know you to be a genuine man of science of reputation and merit, and believe you not to be subversive to the peace of Europe.” (letter to Verschuer 1947-08-070). Fisher’s reference letter to Wezler, the Dean of the Medical Faculty, said, “As he has been attacked for sympathy towards the Nazi movement, I may say that his reputation stood exceedingly high among human geneticists before we had heard of Adolph [sic] Hitler. It was, I think, his misfortune rather than his fault that racial theory was a part of the Nazi ideology, and that it was therefore of some propaganda importance to the Nazi movement to show that the Party supported work of unquestioned value such as that which von Verschuer was doing. In spite of their prejudices I have no doubt also that the Party sincerely wished to benefit the German racial stock, especially by the elimination of manifest defectives, such as those deficient mentally, and I do not doubt that von Verschuer gave, as I should have done, his support to such a movement. In other respects, however, I imagine his influence was consistently on the side of scientific sanity in the drafting and administration of laws intended to this end.” (Weiss 2010, p 745).

          These statements have been interpreted by some (e.g. Evans 2020) as suggesting that Fisher referred to elimination in the sense of killing or at least compulsory sterilisation or institutionalisation, and so was a Nazi sympathiser. This is, however, in obvious disagreement with his very clearly stated views that sterilisation should be voluntary and with his support for the Brock report.

          Other referees for Verschuer, for example, the renowned geneticist Hermann Muller, although not recommending Verschuer due to his Nazi associations, referred to his respect for Verschuer’s genetic work, including his twin studies (Weiss 2010, pp 743–744), while even the refugee geneticist, Richard Goldschmidt, who had been forced to leave his position in Germany because he was Jewish, supported Verschuer as “a fine and sympathetic person” and “an exceptional scholar in his field and one of the most knowledgeable medical geneticists.” (Weiss 2010, p 745; Goldschmidt 1947). In a letter to Verschuer of 3 February 1948, Fisher wrote “It does not seem to be at all easy to arrange a visit to this country. There has evidently been a good deal of denigration, which I do not believe has any substantial basis.” (letter to Verschuer 1948-02-03).

          While there were undoubtedly some people in the later 1940s who knew that Mengele, the Auschwitz doctor called “The Angel of Death” for his involvement in horrific human experiments, was a student of Verschuer and collaborated with him during the war, this was not generally widely known at that time and it seems quite possible that Fisher, perhaps naively and not wanting to believe the worst, gave Verschuer the benefit of doubt and supported him simply as a fellow human geneticist, as did Goldschmidt. Fisher’s last contact with Verschuer was in the late 1950’s when he was seeking data on smoking patterns in identical, monozygous, versus non-identical dizygous, twins (letter to Verschuer 1958-03-14). It seems strange, however, that Fisher apparently ignored, or was unaware of, the well-documented involvement of prominent German human geneticists in Nazi policies during the 1930s, including the notorious Eugen Fischer, Verschuer’s mentor and predecessor at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Genetics and Racial Hygiene [eugenics] (Glass 1981; Weiss 2010).

          If this is enough for you to term someone a “Nazi sympathizer” then would you also refer to everyone who had nice things to say about, for example, Haldane, as a “Communist sympathizer?” I hope not.

          Why not simply leave out such (outrageous, IMHO) accusations from the discussion? Why not try to elevate the quality of the comment section?

        • D:

          “I have no doubt also that the Party sincerely wished to benefit the German racial stock” . . . Hmmm, that sounds a lot like something from a Nazi sympathizer!

          Again, lots of people were Nazi sympathizers in that era. This doesn’t make Fisher a monster, it just is what it is.

        • 1) If I sympathize with a single person in category X, then I am an “X sympathizer?” That is crazy. There is not a single Communist or murderer or racist or thief or plagiarist that you have ever sympathized with? What a stunted moral life you must lead!

          Yes, I have sympathized with many communists on the basis of their communism. I think there are valuable things in Das Kapital though I am not a Marxist. I would also describe myself as sympathetic to many racist views. I think the white folks who have confronted me in the street or called me a racial slur have legitimate grievances with Xi’s evil empire and have erroneously conflated me with their government, or have been otherwise mislead that I am the cause of real problems in their lives. To be clear, I am not saying I would defend their racism, but rather that I recognize that there are struggles causing them to be racist which I sympathize with. So in both of these respects, I would happily describe myself as a communist sympathizer and a racist sympathizer. The other day I read a story about a man whose son was raped and killed, and who subsequently murdered the perpetrator. I will happily admit to being a murderer sympathizer.

          I think there are sympathetic reasons to be communist, to be racist, to murder. I don’t think there are sympathetic reasons to participate in the systematic murder, torture, mutilation, and corpse-desecration of Jews and gypsies. von Verschuer was in contact with his student Josef Mengele, encouraged Mengele’s human experimentation, and received samples from him. He was a participant and beneficiary of the holocaust. We’re not talking about Fisher being friends with someone who had or expressed Nazi-like viewpoints, or a contemporaneous German soldier, but defending both an actual perpetrator of the fucking holocaust and the Nazi’s forced sterilization program itself.

          In spite of their prejudices I have no doubt also that the Party sincerely wished to benefit the German racial stock, especially by the elimination of manifest defectives, such as those deficient mentally, and I do not doubt that von Verschuer gave, as I should have done, his support to such a movement.

          2) For a balanced read about Fisher and the accusations made against them, see this Nature article.

          The last time we talked about this, you denied that Fisher had any eugenical views at all until I pointed you at the relevant passages from the Genetical Theory of Natural Selection. This discussion is honestly so ridiculous that I have to believe you were just so triggered by something that sounded like a woke statement that you didn’t bother to look it up, and now you’re trying to double down on a statement originally made out of ignorance to save face. To make my viewpoint here abundantly clear:

          1. I’m well aware of what Fisher’s views were, stated in his own words
          2. Fisher said evil things to defend an obscenely evil man, who he was personal friends with
          3. I don’t think Fisher was morally a good person, either in retrospect or judged by the standards of his time, but I also don’t think he was himself a Nazi
          4. Fisher was a great scientist and statistician
          5. I don’t think you’re a bad or stupid person for not knowing about the von Verschuer incident, you just didn’t know. You don’t have to now twist yourself in knots to pretend that Fisher’s defense of him was somehow not a stain on Fisher’s moral character. Unless you actually do think that advocating for the character of participants in the systematic murder, torture, mutilation, and corpse-desecration of minorities is an okay thing to do, in which case I do think you’re a bad and stupid person.

        • > I don’t think you’re a bad or stupid person for not knowing about the von Verschuer incident, you just didn’t know.

          Do you disagree with the claims in the Nature article quoted above?

        • I don’t have a stake in this dispute, but I think that a quote from dictionary.com is in order here:

          VOCAB BUILDER
          What does sympathizer mean?

          Sympathizer most commonly refers to someone who is supportive of or loyal to someone or something, such as a leader or cause.

          The verb sympathize most commonly means to feel sympathy with someone—to share their emotions, especially sadness. This is usually understood to mean that you feel bad for them because they are in a negative situation. The word sympathizer can be used to mean someone who sympathizes in this way. It can also refer to someone who offers their sympathies or condolences, such as to someone who is in mourning.

          But sympathizer is especially used to refer to someone who identifies with, supports, or is sympathetic toward a certain cause. This sense of the word is usually used in a negative way to criticize such support, and often implies that such support is secret or at least not fully open. This is the way the word is used in the phrase Communist sympathizer.

          https://www.dictionary.com/browse/sympathizer

        • Do you disagree with the claims in the Nature article quoted above?

          Uh, no? What, specifically in the Nature article do you think exonerates him?

          While there were undoubtedly some people in the later 1940s who knew that Mengele, the Auschwitz doctor called “The Angel of Death” for his involvement in horrific human experiments, was a student of Verschuer and collaborated with him during the war, this was not generally widely known at that time and it seems quite possible that Fisher, perhaps naively and not wanting to believe the worst, gave Verschuer the benefit of doubt and supported him simply as a fellow human geneticist, as did Goldschmidt. Fisher’s last contact with Verschuer was in the late 1950’s when he was seeking data on smoking patterns in identical, monozygous, versus non-identical dizygous, twins (letter to Verschuer 1958-03-14). It seems strange, however, that Fisher apparently ignored, or was unaware of, the well-documented involvement of prominent German human geneticists in Nazi policies during the 1930s, including the notorious Eugen Fischer, Verschuer’s mentor and predecessor at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Genetics and Racial Hygiene [eugenics] (Glass 1981; Weiss 2010).

          Let’s just get this out of the way–the fact is that Verschuer was an evil man. That in mind, the most generous possible interpretation in the quote given is that Fisher was simply defending the character of a man when he had every reason to be suspicious of it and did not bother to investigate. Furthermore, even in the quote it’s noted that this interpretation, of Fisher being in a state of ignorance, does not quite make sense.

          Further, keep in mind he also said

          In spite of their prejudices I have no doubt also that the Party sincerely wished to benefit the German racial stock, especially by the elimination of manifest defectives, such as those deficient mentally, and I do not doubt that von Verschuer gave, as I should have done, his support to such a movement.

          words which, several years after the end of the war, would have required extremely willful ignorance on the part of a genetic scientist. Out of curiosity, how do you explain this quote, in which Fisher states that he should have given “his support to such a movement” as the Nazis, who “sincerely wished to benefit the German racial stock?”

          You can maybe, if you want to be as generous as possible, believe that Fisher, rather than being a Nazi sympathizer, willfully chose to remain as ignorant as possible to Nazi war crimes in the years following the war despite involving himself in discussions about actual perpetrators. That’s still morally upsetting, and it certainly isn’t a convincing enough explanation to make “Nazi sympathizer” an “outrageous accusation.” It’s not like you brought up Fisher and someone else jumped in by telling you he was a Nazi sympathizer and you shouldn’t reference him. Rather, someone else called him a sympathizer and you decided to correct them. I expect therefore some kind of strong counterevidence, not “he wanted voluntarily sterilization while the Nazi’s coerced it” and then a slightly more generous reading of the exact same quotes.

          You seem convinced that Fisher deserves every bit of generosity, in direct contradiction of his own very public statements about miscegenation, inferior indigenous races, superior ruling races, and the absolute necessity of eugenics. You seem to need to correct anyone with a less generous but still plausible interpretation of Fisher’s words. Why? In what sense is more generosity for the character of dead avowed eugenicists “elevating”? Is it just that Fisher is attacked by people who you see as enemies in a broader culture war, therefore you must take the contrarian position? Or do you just instinctively need to defend statistical heroes? I get that messianic geniuses make for fun characters in exciting children’s stories. But letting go of those characterizations is necessary to see the clash of ideals, culture, and the lower impulses of humanity, and therein reach the peace of humility.

          John N-G

          Weirdly, when I follow your link I get

          a person who sympathizes.

          But I get your point. In my argument above, I do assume what I admit is the less common form of the word. But there’s strong enough evidence in to infer that Fisher was likely a sympathizer in the more common sense too!

  4. A writes:

    “I have no doubt also that the Party sincerely wished to benefit the German racial stock” . . . Hmmm, that sounds a lot like something from a Nazi sympathizer!

    Huh? Fisher is offering his opinion about what the Nazi party sought to accomplish. Do you disagree with his assessment? If so, how would you describe the Party’s goals?

    Just because I can accurately describe what the Communist Party “sincerely” wants to accomplish does not mean that I am a Communist sympathizer.

    • 1. Do you disagree with his assessment? If so, how would you describe the Party’s goals?

      I would describe the Party’s primary goal as the domination of Europe and the elimination of many minoritized groups, including some for whom there was never any evidence, spurious or otherwise, of any genetic defect, mostly out of hatred.

      2.

      …and I do not doubt that von Verschuer gave, as I should have done, his support to such a movement.

      It’s right there, did not you not see it?

      • D:

        The Nazi party was a violent criminal enterprise. They had lots of goals, including looting, intimidation, taking control of the German state, eliminating the rights of ethnic minorities, mass murder, staying in power for as long as possible . . . lots of goals. They had an extreme racial ideology which someone such as Fisher who is sympathetic to that ideology could label as “a sincere wish to benefit the German racial stock.” I wouldn’t call it that, but then again I wouldn’t use the term “German racial stock” either. It can be hard for us to put ourselves in the frame of mind of people who were living 100 years ago.

        • > I wouldn’t use the term “German racial stock” either.

          Me either! But we are both in favor of similar things. We want a world in which no one suffers from, say, cystic fibrosis. If we lived in the 1920s, we would probably refer to such a goal as an improvement in “American racial stock.”

          > It can be hard for us to put ourselves in the frame of mind of people who were living 100 years ago.

          Agreed! Which is why it is so rude for you to casually throw around terms like “Nazi sympathizer” even when better informed people, like the authors of the Nature article, write:

          These statements have been interpreted by some (e.g. Evans 2020) as suggesting that Fisher referred to elimination in the sense of killing or at least compulsory sterilisation or institutionalisation, and so was a Nazi sympathiser. This is, however, in obvious disagreement with his very clearly stated views that sterilisation should be voluntary and with his support for the Brock report.

          You should not call someone a Nazi sympathizer or a racist sympathizer or a Communist sympathizer or a Fascist sympathizer unless you have fairly clear evidence that he is, in fact, one. In particular, just because Fisher (or you or me) sympathize with (one!) individual person who is a (former!) Nazi/racist/Communist/Fascist/whatever does not mean that Fisher/you/I sympathize with that philosophy in general.

        • Truly, our discussion has been elevated, lifted to the plane of conspicuously cutting off the ends of quotes that contradict our points and placing weighty emphasis on “former” Nazi, as if the bastard had renounced his views and atoned for his actions, rather than lost state sponsorship after his side lost the war and escaped judgement until after his death by spoliation and otherwise supressing evidence.

          Verily verily I say unto you, let ye amongst you who have not worked to install a perpetrator of human vivisection in a professorship and stated that you should have thrown your support behind such a movement as the Nazi eugenics program, cast the first stone.

        • Perhaps this is hopeless, but I will quote, again, from the Nature article:

          “… while even the refugee geneticist, Richard Goldschmidt, who had been forced to leave his position in Germany because he was Jewish, supported Verschuer as “a fine and sympathetic person” and “an exceptional scholar in his field and one of the most knowledgeable medical geneticists.” (Weiss 2010, p 745; Goldschmidt 1947).

          The only evidence for Fisher being a “Nazi sympathizer” is his support of Verschuer, someone also supported by one of his Jewish colleagues persecuted by the Nazis. If Goldschmidt supported Verschuer, then how well can any of us be positioned to question Fisher’s support? Maybe Goldschmidt was a “Nazi sympathizer” too!

        • I think we’re all agreed that Fisher, Verschuer and Goldschmidt promoted eugenics.

          The question is, is it legitimate to identify support for eugenics with support for the Nazi regime? After all, its fame for having murdered many people in its eugenics program stands out.

          https://eugenicsarchive.ca/discover/tree/53482cf5132156674b00030c

          Eugenics is most often associated with Nazi Germany, especially leading up to and throughout the Second World War. Eugenic ideas have a longer history in Germany, starting with publication of “Foundations of a Eugenics, Part 1, The Efficiency of Our Race and the Protection of the Defectives” in 1895 by the biologist Alfred Ploetz. “Rassenhygiene” is the German term whose literal translation is “race hygiene” but which is more meaningfully translated as “eugenics”.

          -Rob Wilson

          I don’t think you have to support a cause 100% to be counted as a “supporter”; a “sympathizer” would be expected to agree even less.

          If someone continues to support a cause such as eugenics, after the horrible things that the Nazis did to advance this cause, and continues to support people who were instrumental in advancing this cause, I believe it is justified to call them a “Nazi sympathizer”, unless they have unequivocally distanced themselves from what the Nazis did.

          (It’s also justified to just call them “eugenics supporter”. It’s slightly more accurate, but loses some of the context.)

        • It’s not just that Fisher defended Von Versheur’s admission, but that he did so by specifically defending Verschuer’s support of Nazism as being morally upright. You seem to have trouble reading more than a couple words of a quote at a time, so I’ll put the relevant words in boldface

          In spite of their prejudices I have no doubt also that the Party sincerely wished to benefit the German racial stock, especially by the elimination of manifest defectives, such as those deficient mentally, and I do not doubt that von Verschuer gave, as I should have done, his support to such a movement.

          As I already asked, what is your explanation for Fisher saying he would have done the same as Von Verschuer in giving support to such a movement as the Nazis?

          how well can any of us be positioned to question Fisher’s support

          Well given that Fisher et al were defending Von Verschuer against a movement to bar his admission, a movement which, need I remind you, was based on an ultimately correct assessment of his character as Nazi garbage, it obviously WAS possible to see the issues with Von Verschuer, since people did.

          I can’t account for why a Jew would defend a Nazi, but first of all, it’s not impossible that he was a Nazi sympathizer

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Association_of_German_National_Jews?wprov=sfti1

          though yes, without further investigation, I would afford him more charity than Fisher because he’s Jewish and Fisher was otherwise ethically questionable and unapologetically racist. A person’s actions are interpreted in the context of who they are and who they are is also inferred based on their actions, obviously. I hope that doesn’t need explaining.

          All that, though, is irrelevant. In case by this point you have forgotten the salient question, what is your explanation for Fisher saying he would have done the same as Von Verschuer in giving support to such a movement as the Nazis?

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