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Racist Irony: Scientist Doesn’t Want Immigrant-Lovers Using His Ancestry-Mapping Software

Give me your tired, your poor, your scientifically inclined.


Your daily reminder that being a scientist doesn’t automatically make you clear-headed, logical, or right: A German scientist has revoked the license for a piece of research software he wrote in 9 EU countries (and the USA) he says allow the most immigrants to sully his beloved Europe. In reaction, other scientists no longer feel the need to be sullied by using this xenophobe’s software.

Ironically, informatician Gangolf Jobb wrote Treefinder to help scientists map out phylogenetic trees of organisms to trace their evolutionary ancestry and relationships to other organisms. Maybe he should use his own software to remind himself that people from other countries are also, you know, people, and there’s no reason to be afraid of immigrants?

Jobb wrote on his website in an anti-immigration screed that would make Donald “Build a Wall” Trump proud (and make the sensible among us throw up in our mouths a little),

Starting from 1st October 2015, I do no longer permit the usage of my TREEFINDER software in the following EU countries: Germany, Austria, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain, Sweden, Denmark – the countries that together host most of the non-european immigrants. For all other countries, the old license agreement remains valid.

The reason: I am no longer willing to support with my work the political system in Europe and Germany, of which the science system is part. There is no genuine democracy, and I disagree with almost all of the policies. In particular, I disagree with immigration policy. Immigration to my country harms me, it harms my family, it harms my people. Whoever invites or welcomes immigrants to Europe and Germany is my enemy.

Meanwhile, other scientists mostly just DGAF about Jobb’s tantrum and have a pretty long list of alternative software to choose from—many who use Jobb’s Treefinder do so out of familiarity with the software more than a lack of alternatives. After reading Jobb’s message, Sandra Baldauf, a biologist at Uppsala University in Sweden, told New Scientist that while alternatives are available, “I would stop using [Treefinder] just on general principle, even if we had to resort to using pencil and paper.”

Korbinian Strimmer, who originally worked with Jobb on their paper on Treefinder, added that Jobb had sent “grotesque emails with racist slogans” to German professors in the past, which makes Jobb’s insistence that he dislikes immigrants for economic reasons seem as flimsy as anyone else’s. Luckily, this instance of scientific gatekeeping is going to do more to ostracize him than anyone else.

(via Sean Reed, image via David Saddler)

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Dan Van Winkle (he) is an editor and manager who has been working in digital media since 2013, first at now-defunct Geekosystem (RIP), and then at The Mary Sue starting in 2014, specializing in gaming, science, and technology. Outside of his professional experience, he has been active in video game modding and development as a hobby for many years. He lives in North Carolina with Lisa Brown (his wife) and Liz Lemon (their dog), both of whom are the best, and you will regret challenging him at Smash Bros.