For years, women have quietly warned each other to stay away from Lawrence Krauss, the internationally lauded theoretical physicist and torchbearer for the secular, sceptic, and atheist movement, according to a BuzzFeed News investigation published on Thursday. Now, multiple organisations have cancelled events featuring Krauss and dis-invited him from others.
The exhaustively reported BuzzFeed article by reporters Peter Aldhous, Azeen Ghorayshi, and Virginia Hughes, details women’s claims of sexual misconduct against Krauss that extend back more than a decade and range from sexist comments to female coworkers at Arizona State University, where Krauss is currently employed, to non-consensual groping and harassment of women half his age. These alleged incidents reportedly led to official complaints filed by the women to a long list of universities and organisations Krauss has affiliated himself with over the years.
(Disclosure: As part of its investigation, BuzzFeed interviewed me about a blog post I published in 2013 that detailed a 2011 allegation against Krauss.)
Once, Krauss was barred from making contact with an undergraduate student by his university or from entering the campus without permission, following her harassment complaint, the BuzzFeed article reports. In another instance, the article says, a prominent research institute placed Krauss on its do-not-invite list, following a complaint made during a 2009 event where he guest-spoke. The article also reported that another prominent secular and sceptical organisation, the Centre for Inquiry (CFI), continued to invite Krauss to events even after having been made aware of several allegations against him and CFI employees requesting that he not attend in light of them.
As of Friday, though, the fallout was coming quick.
This afternoon, Pangborn Philosophy announced that Krauss would not be attending “The Celebration of Science & Reason” event it had scheduled for Friday night in Phoenix, Arizona, offering a refund to anyone disappointed by his absence. The organisation did not immediately respond to inquiries from Gizmodo about whether it had dis-invited him or if Krauss had voluntarily stepped down. Matt Dillahunty and Sam Harris, two speakers and prominent personalities within the community, who were scheduled to appear with Krauss, have also not immediately responded to a request for comment.
Krauss’ employer, Arizona State University, has responded in part to the BuzzFeed article. An ASU representative said in a statement that it had never received any allegations from any of its staff members, students, or faculty, KTAR reported. The university said it has initiated an ongoing “review in an attempt to discern the facts surrounding these claims.” The Origins Project at ASU, a research initiative founded and led by Krauss to explore the origins of the universe, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Gizmodo regarding Krauss’ status there.
The Northeast Conference on Science and Scepticism (NECSS), where Krauss served as keynote speaker in 2014, told Gizmodo it does not have plans to invite Krauss to speak at any of its forthcoming conferences.
“There are no plans to have Prof. Krauss as a speaker at NECSS this year or in the foreseeable future,” Micheal Feldman, co-chair of the NECSS Organising Committee, said. “Of course we cannot speak for every person affiliated with NECSS, but the organising committee was not aware in 2014 of these allegations against Prof. Krauss. We have no personal knowledge of the events in question and cannot add anything. We do, of course, individually and as an organisation, take all such accusations very seriously.”
Leaving aside his fame within atheist and sceptic circles, Krauss’ most notable public role has been as a prominent member of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists—the group responsible for keeping watch over the so-called Doomsday Clock. As recently as this January, Krauss was posing for the camera and offering quotes to the media during the group’s announcement that the clock had moved to two minutes to midnight. He is currently the chair of the Bulletin’s board of sponsors.
“Lawrence is a valued member of the Bulletin’s board, and we take these allegations very seriously. We are pursuing the story and will respond as we have more information,” Rachel Bronson, the Bulletin’s president and CEO, said in a statement to Gizmodo.
Gizmodo also reached out to MIT, where Krauss was scheduled to speak at an alumni event in March. This afternoon, a link to the event was taken down from MIT’s website, and a representative told Gizmodo that the event has been cancelled.
The American Physical Society announced this afternoon that it has also dis-invited Krauss from speaking at its 2018 meeting held in April.
The BuzzFeed piece also cites an alleged incident in 2011 involving Krauss that I previously detailed in a 2013 post I wrote for the Heresy Club, a now-defunct blog network of young writers in the sceptic community. The blog post, which was removed shortly after its publication following legal threats from Krauss, described a 2011 incident in which Krauss allegedly propositioned a woman to engage in a threesome with himself and another woman (the request was reportedly turned down). The woman was at the time a guest on a cruise sponsored by the Centre for Inquiry, where Krauss was one of the featured speakers. I also wrote in my 2013 blog post—and the BuzzFeed article reiterates —that at least one CFI employee implored the then-president of CFI, Ron Lindsay, to not invite Krauss on a planned 2014 cruise, citing the “report of unwanted sexual attention” she had received from the woman and other past offensive behaviour. The CFI nevertheless invited him.
Krauss denied that this and other incidents took place, BuzzFeed reported. In other instances, he claimed interactions he had with women who later accused him of sexual misconduct were entirely consensual. Krauss did not immediately responded to Gizmodo’s request from comment regarding the allegations or his subsequent blacklisting from events.
“As an organisation, CFI treats all allegations of harassment seriously,” Nick Little, a lawyer for CFI, told Gizmodo in an email Friday. “Over time, this policy has evolved, and will continue to adapt in order to best serve to protect employees, volunteers, and event attendees. Under this policy, CFI is unable to comment on individual allegations or individual investigations of them.”
Little did not respond to a further request for comment regarding whether Krauss remains on the CFI’s board of directors as an honorary member. The Richard Dawkins Foundation, which has since merged with CFI, also did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did the Committee for Sceptical Inquiry, where Krauss is currently listed as a fellow.
Other members of the atheist community aren’t keeping silent in the light of the allegations, however.
“As the President of Secular Woman, it is my responsibility to urge [CFI] to prioritise the safety of women over whatever benefit they see in the continued attachment to Lawrence Krauss,” Monette Richards, who is a chapter leader of CFI Northeast Ohio, told Gizmodo. “This article has given them an excellent opportunity: make a break from past leadership practices; remove Krauss from their honorary board; promise to stop inviting him to events.”
“I certainly hope they don’t intend to ignore it and hope everyone forgets,” Richards added. “Because I will work hard to make sure no one does.”