James Watson, DNA Decoder, on Race and Intelligence

Oct 17, 2007 7:54pm

James Watson, who shared a Nobel Prize in 1962 for the structure of DNA, has, ever since, been both an eminence-grise and bete-noir of the science world.  Sunday’s Times of London ran a lengthy profile of him by Charlotte Hunt-Grubbe, described as a "former protegee," and about two thirds of the way in was this paragraph about race and intelligence: "He says that he is ‘inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa’ because ‘all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours–whereas all the testing says not really,’ and I know that this ‘hot potato’ is going to be difficult to address. His hope is that everyone is equal, but he counters that ‘people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.’ He says that you should not discriminate on the basis of colour, because ‘there are many people of colour who are very talented, but don’t promote them when they haven’t succeeded at the lower level.’ He writes that ‘there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so.’ " Perhaps it took a few days for people to notice the quote, but they have now.  Watson, 79, is in Britain to promote a new book; late Wednesday the Science Museum of London said he is no longer welcome to deliver a lecture there.  And Britain’s Independent newspaper reports that "The newly formed Equality and Human Rights Commission…said it was studying Dr. Watson’s remarks "in full." As Hunt-Grubbe writes, Watson has courted controversy before, accused of insensitive comments about race and sex.  We’ve tried to reach the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where Watson is Chancellor, but have not heard back.
(AP photo of Watson in London in June.)

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