Geneticist James Watson has been rebuked by the scientific community after claiming in a new documentary that racial factors affect intelligence.
Watson, 95, is currently in hospital recovering from a car accident last October. Earlier last year he was interviewed by American broadcaster PBS as part of a documentary on his life.
In the documentary, Watson said:
“...there’s a difference on the average between blacks and whites on IQ tests. I would say the difference is, it’s genetic”.
This is not the first time Watson has drawn a link between race and intelligence. In 2007 he told the Sunday Times 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”.
Cold Springs Harbour Laboratory, where Watson was chancellor for many years, has severed all ties with the Nobel-prize laureate. In a statement, the laboratory described his comments as “unsubstantiated and reckless” and that it would be revoking all of Watson’s honours and titles:
“Dr. Watson’s statements are reprehensible, unsupported by science, and in no way represent the views of C.S.H.L., its trustees, faculty, staff, or students,” the laboratory’s statement said.
Other scientists hit out at Watson, describing his views as reprehensible and completely unscientific.
“Jim Watson...is one of these scientists who has used his gut to think a lot, often with remarkable success, but this is a case where his gut is plain, flat wrong”, said Dr. Ewan Birney, director of the European Bioinformatics Institute, in Cambridge. “He has had many people tell him that he is wrong and he has decided not to listen to that. And he has decided not to engage with people who know more than him in this area”.
Some commentators, however, have come to Watson’s defence. Journalist Melanie Phillips argued in The Times that punishing an elderly Nobel laureate for his views on race is pointless and unpleasant.
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