Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Watson the racist

In the Independent:
"James Watson, a Nobel Prize winner for his part in the unravelling of DNA...He said there was a natural desire that all human beings should be equal but "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true"."

Via GNXP here's Watson's non-retraction:
"Rarely more so than right now, where I find myself at the centre of a storm of criticism. I can understand much of this reaction. For if I said what I was quoted as saying, then I can only admit that I am bewildered by it. To those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologise unreservedly. That is not what I meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no scientific basis for such a belief."
The rest of the article fails to retract or clarify what he is reported as saying, but neither is it clear whether he did in fact say it.


Anonymous said...

Sorry. What is the evidence of parallel evolution making everyone exactly equal?

Magic? Wishfull thinking?

Or just plain hypocritical racist bullshit?

454 said...

Parallel evolution requires an assumption of true lineage formation, whereas all the evidence supports human beings as basically a single population segregated into subpopulations that undergo high to moderate to frequent interbreeding.

Of course, different alleles of genes can reach fixation in different subpopulations (i.e., populations can wind up 'different' somehow), but to ascribe these differences to entire phenomena such as intelligence and to such major traits as could 'characterize entire peoples' is absurd.

There is evidence that European populations have been under selection for skin color over not too distant history. Also evidence that African populations have undergone selection in antiviral and antimalarial functions. But complex stuff like 'intelligence', whatever the hell that is in the first place? A bunch of biggoted crap.

Anonymous said...

He was showing signs of being nuts long before he got old. Anyone who's heard him speak can probably attest to that.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't anyone watch PBS anymore? According to documentaries on that channel, this guy didn't really completely discover the double-helix with Crick. They ripped research off of a woman and then claimed all the glory. If they are right, then it figures this is what this guy is like.

Anonymous said...

At what point did Watson claim that his race was better than other races?

He didn't, plain and simple.

So, to call him racist is uncalled for, misleading, and a blatant lie.

Use the language according to it's meaning folks, and not what you WANT it to be.

Not one thing Watson said was "racist". Not one...

Anonymous said...

How is his statement NOT racist? He attributed intellect to RACE? The existence of race is not even scientific.

preoccupied said...

Dr. Watson makes the statement that Blacks are inferior to whites, less intelligent. His unraveling of the DNA has enabled many innocent Black prisoners to be freed. For that I thank Dr. Watson; his statement, I do not.

Anonymous said...

What’s fascinating with this whole Watson thing is just how quickly people who claim to believe in evolution (i.e. when it’s time to criticize creationism and ‘intelligent design’) turn into creationists (”we’re-all-born-equal”) when the idea of evolution is applied to humans. Evolution doesn't produce equality. You can believe in either one or the other but not in both.

Despairing PhD said...

"Evolution doesn't produce equality...."

For evolution to produce what you are calling inequality, you have to have a clear "selection pressure".

Just exactly what selection pressure do you envisage making Europeans more "intelligent" than Africans?

Apart from there being no such identifiable single quality as "intelligence", I fail to see how it can ever be an evolutionary advantage to a human subpopulation, over many generations, to be less good at solving problems, if that is what you are getting at.

When Watson mentioned "intelligence", he was talking bilge - not science - and playing into the hands (though I do not believe he intended this) of pseudo-scientific crypto- (and overt) white supremacists. I suspect what his retraction means is:

"I meant to say that, self-evidently, not all selectable characteristics will be preserved identically in subpopulations subject to different selection pressures. And I wish I had never mentioned intelligence at all, as what I am told I said about it was obvious claptrap, not science."