Lawrence Krauss, Jeffrey Epstein, and Firing Your Heroes into the Sun

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Billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein is back in the news, because after years of avoiding any real punishment for literally running a worldwide underage sex trafficking ring, he’s finally been arrested and this time he may actually go to prison for a period of time proportionate to his crimes. Maybe. Honestly I keep my hopes low, after the last time when now-Labor Secretary Alex Acosta prosecuted Epstein and let him off with a slap on the wrist while hiding the sweetheart deal from the girls he raped.

Since Epstein was released from his first sentence, he apparently went on to victimize more children, as evidenced by a trove of pornography unearthed by investigators who raided his home this week. It’s all truly sickening and everyone involved in this monster walking free should be heading to prison with him.

Surly Amy wrote up an overview of the new indictment on Skepchick, and in that piece she points out that many conservatives are warning liberals not to get too excited about this investigation because it may end up snagging some of our “heroes.” What a load of absolute bullshit. No pedophile has ever, or will ever, be my “hero,” and as Amy points out, we’ve already had that experience of watching someone we once admired turn out to be an enormous piece of shit, and it already happened in relation to Epstein.

I’m speaking, of course, about Lawrence Krauss. Eight years ago when the Epstein sentencing was in the news, a Skepchick reader sent us an alarming quote from Lawrence Krauss, a man who previously had appeared on my old podcast and who we all admired. Krauss defended Epstein, who had just been convicted of raping an underage girl, by saying that he had never seen Epstein rape a minor and he’s a scientist so he knows he’s right. The two were friends, and Epstein gave a lot of money to Krauss for various projects.

We thought, there’s no way he actually said something that stupid. So rather than just run the story, I emailed Krauss and asked for context. The context was, essentially, “yeah, all those bitches be lying.” In a barely literate screed that he wanted me to publish in full, he claimed that Epstein was the actual victim, that those teenage girls took advantage of him, and that they made false accusations to get his money. When I published all his statements, he went on to quadruple down in the comments by pointing out that even if Epstein did rape those kids, Krauss knows “for a fact he came out of prison a more thoughtful responsible man who was intent on doing good” and that, I swear to god, if the famous physicist Richard Feynman were alive today he would agree with Krauss. Holy yikes.

A few years later, as even more evidence about Epstein’s heinous crimes came to light, Krauss continued to defend him. He wasn’t the only scientist to do so — considering that Epstein not only gave millions of dollars to many scientists, a few male scientists clearly also got the extra “perqs” of getting to fly around in his jet (which the media dubbed the Lolita Express) or hang out at his parties on his private island. One other prominent scientist, Robert Trivers, a piece of shit evolutionary psychologist who Epstein once gave $40,000, offered up in defense of Epstein, “By the time (girls are) 14 or 15, they’re like grown women were 60 years ago, so I don’t see these acts as so heinous.”

What other scientists were so close to Epstein that they may have witnessed his behavior and either ignored it or participated in it? I’m genuinely curious. In 2006, around the time that the first of Epstein’s many accusers was going public, 21 physicists flew to his private island to hang out. They included Lawrence Krauss of course, plus Stephen Hawking, Lisa Randall, Jim Peebles from Princeton University, Alan Guth from MIT, Kip Thorne from Caltech, and Nobel laureates Gerardus‘t Hooft, David Gross, Frank Wilczek. 

After my initial reporting on Epstein and Krauss, I set up a Google alert on Epstein in order to follow his ongoing legal cases. What I found was that once the initial story died down, most of the pings I got were press releases touting Epstein’s funding of scientists, like anti-poaching measures and 3D breast cancer scans. The gross thing is that it worked — check out this article from Forbes, where Drew Hendricks writes an entire article about “Science Funder Jeffrey Epstein” without once mentioning that he was convicted of raping an underage girl a few years prior.

That article is about Epstein funding an organization called Open Cog, founded by Ben Goertzel, in 2013 — five years after Epstein’s conviction. 

Not everyone is happy to continue taking a pedophile’s money, though, so Epstein eventually set up a secret charity to funnel money to various scientists (and other charitable organizations), as revealed recently by the Daily Beast. That article shows that some people still knew the money came from Epstein and happily cashed those checks, like science writer Robert Lawrence Kuhn who knowingly took $150,000 from Epstein in 2017.

It’s insane to me that we have a man who was convicted of raping a minor and who has likely done much, much worse, and all of the scientists he gave money to are either quiet about it or vociferously defending him. I’ve yet to find a single comment from any of the scientists he’s wined and dined saying so much as “Hey, it’s wrong to set up an international child sex ring.” And that’s completely fucked up.

In 2018, Krauss’s own sexually abusive past came to light in a Buzzfeed investigation that found several women who said he had harassed them in the past, including a woman who complained that Krauss propositioned her for a threesome while he was speaking aboard a Center for Inquiry cruise ship. CFI buried the complaint and invited Krauss back on the cruise on a later year.

This is no shock: abusers protect abusers. Why would Krauss abandon his buddy over some light rape when he himself is out there regularly pushing right on past women’s established boundaries? I’m sure he hasn’t abandoned Johnny Depp…why would he abandon someone even richer who gives him money?

I took a look and apparently Krauss is still popular, showing that it doesn’t matter if you’re an abuser so long as you’re famous. He has a podcast called Origins that appears to be quite popular, in which he has fellow shitheads Penn Jillette and Ricky Gervais on to talk shop. He even got Noam Chomsky and author Jennifer Finney Boylan, who I guess don’t know or care about Krauss’s sexual harassment or his ardent support of a convicted and unrepetant pedophile.

And oh, look! He gets to go on another cruise with his best friend Richard Dawkins! They’re going to Cambodia! Maybe if Epstein gets away again, he can join them. I’m sure he’d love Cambodia, which is a Tier 2 country for human trafficking and one of the top countries in the world for child sex slavery. But I’m sure Krauss thinks all those girls are lying, too. 

So yeah, anyway, you want my heroes? Come and get ‘em. I don’t care what you’ve done for science if you’re too cowardly to speak out against a convicted pedophile or if, even worse, you defend him.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon mstdn.social/@rebeccawatson Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky @rebeccawatson.bsky.social

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  1. Henlo, can we start a comment section here? I mean come on this is good material and there must be some pun I mean fun to discuss under it!

  2. I realize this will be an unpopular opinion here, but here goes anyway. There is clearly a great deal of smoke surrounding the Epstein accusations, and we all know the old saw about smoke. Assuming what Rebacca says is true, I cannot fathom Krauss’s response to Epstein’s first trial.

    All that having been said, Epstein is not guilty of trafficking…yet. He has been convicted of solicitation of a minor, and he is currently under indictment for trafficking, but he has not been convicted. Trafficking and solicitation are distinct from each other. I don’t believe anyone clearly understands the reason(s) his first indictment resulted in a plea deal. I’ve read that the law at the time made a conviction for trafficking uncertain, and Federal prosecutors rarely go to court unless conviction is a certainty.

    So, perhaps the reason you are not hearing many scientists–who are supposed to withold judgment until they have all the facts–condemning Epstein for trafficking minors is because they are waiting for the outcome of the legal case. Accepting money from him is another question entirely. I suppose each person would have to make their own moral judgement on that one. If one believes Epstein benefited financially from his behavior involving minors and still accepted money from him, then that would certainly reflect poorly, to me at least.

    I realize this can sound like a crass attempt at playing semantics with sex involving minors, but that’s not my intent. There is a great deal of confusion among the general public when it comes to the term “trafficking.” Many of the highly publicized busts of “sex trafficking rings” have turned out not to be trafficking at all. The recent case involving Robert Kraft, for example, was touted by law enforcement officials as among the largest sex trafficking rings in history. Prosecutors have since stated publicly that they had no evidence of trafficking, and I believe some of the women that were initially called victims remain under indictment for prostitution.

    To be clear, I believe if Epstein is truly guilty of everything he’s been accused of then he deserves all the punishment allowed under the law–and then some. Indeed, his admission to solicitation of minors makes him a piece of shit in my mind. But trafficking is a far worse crime than what he’s been convicted of, and at this point he has not been convicted.

    1. Speaking of semantics, Boomer, “sex involving minors” is just about as bloodless and sanitised a description of children being raped by adults as anyone could muster.

    2. Personally, I strongly feel that soliciting a minor for prostitution warrants condemnation. To be fair, I don’t know how many of the people mentioned in the article did condemn Epstein for that, but a) it was not enough for them to feel uncomfortable in his presence, and b) Krauss most certainly did not.

  3. The graphic of scientists funded by Epstein is too small to read and it won’t let me click it to enlarge. I was wondering if you could fix this so we can all see it and they can get the (dis)credit they deserve.

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