Jeffrey Epstein—the billionaire investor facing charges of sex trafficking dozens of underage girls and who hobnobbed with the rich and powerful including multiple presidents—sure had a lot of thoughts about science. Specifically, disturbing ones concerning the viability of a plan to “seed the human race with his DNA” by impregnating women at a ranch he owned in New Mexico, according to a Wednesday report in the New York Times.
There’s no evidence that Epstein ever attempted to carry out such a plan (beyond the numerous accusations of rape and sexual abuse he is facing), but the Times noted that the disgraced financier was well known for associating with a bevy of high-profile scientists, funding some research projects, and donating to academic institutions and think tanks. Interviews with “more than a dozen of his acquaintances” as well as analysis of public documents showed that some scientists admitted “the prospect of financing blinded them to the seriousness of his sexual transgressions, and even led them to give credence to some of Mr. Epstein’s half-baked scientific musings.”
Members of the scientific community who at some point or another attended gatherings held by Epstein included physicist and quark discoverer Murray Gell-Mann, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, neurologist Oliver Sacks, molecular engineer George M. Church, theoretical physicist Frank Wilczek, paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould, and Caltech theoretical physicist Kip S. Thorne, among others, the Times wrote.
Scientists and others interviewed by the paper showed that Epstein tried to woo some of them with insights that could be charitably described as ranging from hot bunk to disgusting. For example, computer science and philosophy expert Jaron Lanier described Epstein’s thoughts on atoms:
Another scientist cultivated by Mr. Epstein, Jaron Lanier, a prolific author who is a founder of virtual reality, said that Mr. Epstein’s ideas did not amount to science, in that they did not lend themselves to rigorous proof. Mr. Lanier said Mr. Epstein had once hypothesized that atoms behaved like investors in a marketplace.
Epstein also claimed to be bankrolling research efforts into some sort of stalker particle, the Times wrote:
Mr. Epstein was willing to finance research that others viewed as bizarre. He told one scientist that he was bankrolling efforts to identify a mysterious particle that might trigger the feeling that someone is watching you.
Harvard cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, who had attended gatherings with Epstein, told the Times that Epstein had more or less advocated letting the impoverished die off because of “overpopulation”:
At one session at Harvard, Mr. Epstein criticized efforts to reduce starvation and provide health care to the poor because doing so increased the risk of overpopulation, said Mr. Pinker, who was there. Mr. Pinker said he had rebutted the argument, citing research showing that high rates of infant mortality simply caused people to have more children. Mr. Epstein seemed annoyed, and a Harvard colleague later told Mr. Pinker that he had been “voted off the island” and was no longer welcome at Mr. Epstein’s gatherings.
Epstein’s thoughts on eugenics extended to the aforementioned “baby ranch,” the Times wrote, “according to two award-winning scientists and an adviser to large companies and wealthy individuals” who said he raised the idea on numerous occasions and to a wide array of people beginning in the early 2000s.
Lanier told the paper that a woman who identified herself as a NASA scientist told him at an Epstein dinner in Manhattan that the billionaire wanted to impregnate 20 women at a ranch near Santa Fe. The purported space agency employee added that Epstein cited the Repository for Germinal Choice, a now-defunct sperm bank which sought to stock itself from Nobel laureates. According to the Times, other sources said Epstein also brought up “the question of how humans could be improved genetically.”
Finally, as if this wasn’t ghoulish enough, the Times reported that one individual identified as an “adherent of transhumanism” spoke about Epstein’s interest in cryonic life-extension, which aims to freeze people’s bodies so they can be resurrected in the future. (While cryonics is particularly popular among a certain slice of the Silicon Valley set, the current outlook for reviving cryo-preserved bodies is not so good.) Epstein specifically wanted his head and penis preserved, the Times wrote.
Epstein was arrested on one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors on July 6 and is facing a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison—which if the 66-year-old is convicted makes it likely he will spend the rest of his life behind bars. Epstein pleaded not guilty and has been denied bail, and after he was found seriously injured in his cell at New York City’s Metropolitan Correctional Center last week was reportedly placed on suicide watch. Prosecutors say they have more than a million documents’ worth of evidence on Epstein and his activities.
Epstein’s lawyers did not respond to a request for comment, the Times wrote.