Nobel Prize Scientist 'Mortified' at Racist Slur
By Stephen Adams (October 20, 2007)
Dr Watson is really a relic of the oldest stock and deserves to be made to account for his extremely offensive and ignorant remarks. -- Koku Adomdza, director of the 1990 Trust
The Science Museum last night cancelled a talk by Nobel Prize winning scientist Dr James Watson after he was accused of making “racist” comments implying Africans were not as intelligent as whites.
Dr Watson is no stranger to controversy DNA pioneer Dr Watson, who discovered the double helix with Briton Francis Crick, has been roundly condemned for saying he was “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”.
Dr Watson, who flew into Britain to promote a new book, has also provoked uproar by saying the assumption that different racial groups shared “equal powers of reason” was backed by “no firm reason”.
His comments have been fiercely attacked by fellow scientists, anti-racism campaigners and politicians.
The 79-year-old American was due to talk at the Science Museum’s Dana Centre on Friday but last night a spokesman said Dr Watson’s comments had gone “beyond the point of acceptable debate”
He announced the Musuem was cancelling the sold-out talk as a result.
On Tuesday night the Dana Centre had coincidentally hosted a debate entitled “Scientific Racism: A history”.
Neourobiologist Prof Steven Rose of the Open University, a founder member of the Society for Social Responsibility in Science, said such “racist” comments were also “genetic nonsense”.
“He should recognise that statements of this sort have racist functions and are to be deeply, deeply regretted,” he said.
“Making statements of that sort is certainly a great day for the British National Party but it’s a sad day for scientists and racial harmony.”
Dr Watson has courted controversy before, saying darker-skinned people have a higher sex drive and that women should hypothetically have the right to abort fetuses that “may have a tendency to become homosexual”.
He has also backed genetic screening.
Prof Stevens thought the 79-year-old American was stirring up trouble to raise publicity for his new book, entitled 'Avoid Boring People’.
He said: “He doesn’t need to do it. He had a distinguished reputation as a molecular biologist and he should keep out of areas in which he is not well qualified.”
No evidence that claimed to find people of African descent were less intelligent than Europeans or other racial groups had stood up to scientific scrutiny, he stressed.
Koku Adomdza, director of the black equality pressure group The 1990 Trust, labelled Dr Watson a “complete dinosaur” and pressed him to apologise to “Africa and all people of African origin”.
He said: “Dr Watson is really a relic of the oldest stock and deserves to be made to account for his extremely offensive and ignorant remarks.
“His very poisonously racist opinions put students and the unsuspecting public at serious risk.”
Keith Vaz, the Labour chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, commented: “It is sad to see a scientist of such achievement making such baseless, unscientific and extremely offensive comments. I am sure the scientific community will roundly reject what appear to be Dr Watson’s personal prejudices.
“These comments serve as a reminder of the attitudes which can still exists at the highest professional levels.”
The Equality and Human Rights Commission, successor to the Commission for Racial Equality, said it was considering Dr Watson’s remarks “in full”.
The comments by Dr Watson, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962 together with Britons Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, were first made in The Sunday Times.
Dr Watson was also quoted as saying that while he hoped all races were equal, “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”.
He wrote 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."
However, he said people should not discriminate racially, because “there are many people of colour who are very talented”.
He said he thought it would be 10 to 15 years before the genes for intelligence were identified.
Despite the fierce barracking received by those who have put forward the theory of a racial basis for intellectual difference, the idea has refused to die.
IQ testing has consistently shown that racial groups perform differently, say advocates.
In 1994 the publication of Richard Hernnstein and Charles Murray’s book The Bell Curve, that put forward evidence for the theory, caused a huge storm.
In March last year Leeds lecturer Dr Frank Ellis caused a furore when he said he found such evidence “extremely convincing”.
Originally appeared on Telegraph.