Intellectual Racism

Dr. James Watson, who received the Nobel Prize, in 1962, for being the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, has become embroiled in a nasty racial controversy because of remarks he made. The British Broadcasting Network, BBC, reports that Watson told the London Sunday Times that “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really”. He went on to say he hoped everyone was equal but that “people who have to deal with black employees find this is not true”.


10 thoughts on “Intellectual Racism

  1. On Friday, he tried to clarify his words:

    Dr Watson says in his article today that he has never been one to shy away from stating what he believes to be true, however unpalatable that may be.

    “This has, at times, got me in hot water,” he says. “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. This is not what I meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no scientific basis for such a belief.”

    However, Dr Watson goes on to suggest that genes may account for many behavioural traits, including intelligence and even criminality. “The thought that some people are innately wicked disturbs me,” he says. “But science is not here to make us feel good.”

    Without referring directly to the subject of racial differences, Dr Watson once more invokes the idea that Darwinian natural selection has led to differences in behavioural ability between people from different geographical regions of the world. “We do not yet adequately understand the way in which the different environments in the world have selected over time the genes which determine our capacity to do different things,” he says. “The overwhelming desire of society today is to assume that equal powers of reason are a universal heritage of humanity.

    “It may well be. But simply wanting this to be the case is not enough. This is not science. To question this is not to give in to racism. This is not a discussion about superiority or inferiority, it is about seeking to understand differences, about why some of us are great musicians and others great engineers.”


    Not that I agree with his thinking, but that was a much better explanation of his “intelligence via DNA” theory than the earlier anectodal statement “people who have to deal with black employees find this is not true.” In his studies on intelligence, Dr. Watson may have forgotten there is a difference between book-smarts and common sense. He must be genetically deficient in the latter.

  2. I agree that science is not here to make us feel good. I do not accept the fact that my make up determines my fate. It is all about how we have been brought up. Sure, a crack baby kid (not too PC here) might have behavioral issues, but that has nothing to do with genes. I do agree that people from different parts of the world behave in different ways, but that is a matter of customs, culture, and region. Again, that has nothing to do with genes; it is all a condition of our society.

    As for natural selection, it is funny how people have taken a science only to use it for the wrong categorical reasons. When we (scientist) cracked the genetic code 10 years ago, they discovered that there really is no difference between all humans.

  3. Matt S or Eddie,

    Have either of you ever read the Bell Curve? I would like to get your thoughts on that as it greatly relates to this topic.

  4. You know, people accidentally misspeak. I do it all the time. I know that Dr. Watson won the Nobel Prize, and that he’s a little bit famous, but c’mon, can’t we give him the benefit of the doubt a little?

  5. If you “Wikipedia” Dr. James Watson, the guy has said some other things that were rather offensive without meaning to be. Being older, I think his passion for DNA research is eclipsing the public’s wilingness to hear that intelligence, sex drive, looks, and sexual orientation may be linked to genes and could theoretically be altered. He may be right. He may be wrong. He may be somewhere in between.

    I think that Dr. Watson is intellectually honest: he’s an atheist and a scientist who is willing to frankly talk about the way evolution may or may not be progressing, even if such a discussion may bump up against some social boundaries. He’s not going out of his way to be controversial or offensive, it just happens to play that way to a lot of people. That being said, he needs to do a better job of choosing his words.

  6. Watson is clearly not a politician (70% how you say it, etc). And I think his assessment of ability in a particular community is rather bazaar. But, there are genetic differences in people individually. some people are born with higher potentials than others. I’m short, my potential as an NBA player ain’t exactly stellar. To pretend that mental capacities aren’t likely to follow the same rules of variability that physical athletic ability plays by is absurd.

    But, that doesn’t mean that we all can’t benefit from an environment that helps us to maximize our own potential. I may not be tall, but then neither was Spud. And while he may have been the exception that proves the rule, practice and hard work go a heck of a long way in overcoming natural “short” comings.

    Genes play an enormous role, the scope of which we haven’t even begun to understand. But, that does’t mean we’re helpless in the face of them. It’s as though we are each a statue made of marble, covered in a layer of clay. The marble is our genetic make up, we can’t do a lot to change that, but the clay we can do anything we want with.

  7. to clarify … YOu can’t make solid predictions about groups of people. We’re all human, and essentially the same (save for certain skin tones, and facial features). Only with a particular individual, in a particular place, at a particular time, do genes really tell you much.

  8. “book-smarts and common sense. He must be genetically deficient in the latter.”

    There is no such thing as book smarts and ‘common sense’ is not a tool or criteria for true science.

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