While we cannot reject Cook's scientific contribution simply on theThis is a question that has plagued me for a long time. In what context can you safely separate the person from the work that person has created? According to Patrick French's biography The World Is What It Is, Trinidadian author V.S. Naipaul is a thoroughly awful person. While that doesn't make him any less deserving of his Nobel Prize, but it still influences the way I see his work.
basis of his embrace of racist pseudoscience, we also can't simply
ignore it either. Sloppy thinking, after all, is sloppy thinking.
Working in Puerto Rican dry forest, Leslie Holdridge's Life Zone Ecology is crucial. While I have major issues with the whole idea (but that's another post), the life zone model is the working model that is used there. Of course, you don't actually read Holdrige's book - rather, you use the life zone map of the island that Ewel and Whitmore produced. Of course I felt the need to actually read Holdridge's book, including the last chapter on humans in life zones. I was taken aback when I realised that (a) he was citing Carleton Coon's work on race (long discredited and often seen as racist...Afarensis' review of the book is perhaps as generous a consideration of his work as you're likely to see; most people see Coon's work as racist), and (b) Holdridge had referred to Coon as Koons...which suggests that was working from memory and hadn't bothered to check his source, if he had read it at all.
The life zone model continues to be useful; it provides a means of predicting vegetation based on a small number of variables. With the rise of computer modelling, it's probably far more useful than it was. But reading that last chapter of Life Zone Ecology creates doubt. Holdridge should have been aware of the controversy surrounding Coon's idea about human evolution. Or should he have? When you're faced with a topic that's outside of your field, you pick up a good reference work and get a sense of it. You don't evaluate it with the same thoroughness that you would works in your own field. So do you cut Holdridge some slack? Or does it cast doubt on all of his work?