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One of the world’s most respected scientists is embroiled in an extraordinary row after claiming that black people are less intelligent than white people.
James Watson, a Nobel Prize winner for his part in discovering the structure of DNA, has provoked outrage with his comments, made ahead of his arrival in Britain today.
More fierce criticism of the eminent scientist is expected as he embarks on a number of engagements to promote a new book ‘Avoid Boring People: Lessons from a Life in Science’. Among his first commitments is a speech to a London audience at the Science Museum on Friday. The event is sold out. Dr Watson, who runs one of America’s leading scientific research institutions, made the controversial remarks in an interview in The Sunday Times.

The 79-year-old geneticist said 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.". He said he hoped that everyone was equal, but countered 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”.

He claimed genes responsible for creating differences in human intelligence could be found within a decade. The newly formed Equality and Human Rights Commission is studying Dr Watson’s remarks “in full”.

Keith Vaz, the Labour chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said today: “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 exist at the highest professional levels.”

Dr Watson was hailed as achieving one of the greatest single scientific breakthroughs of the 20th century when he worked at the University of Cambridge in the 1950s and 1960s, forming part of the team which discovered the structure of DNA. He shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for medicine with his British colleague Francis Crick and New Zealand-born Maurice Wilkins.

He has served for 50 years as a director of the Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory on Long Island, considered a world leader in research into cancer and genetics.
Dr Watson is no stranger to controversy. He has been reported in the past saying that a woman should have the right to abort her unborn child if tests could determine it would be homosexual.

In addition, he has suggested a link between skin colour and sex drive, proposing a theory that black people have higher libidos.He also claimed that beauty could be genetically manufactured, saying: “People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would be great.”

Commenting on Dr Watson’s current views about race, Steven Rose, a professor of biological sciences at the Open University, said: “This is Watson at his most scandalous. He has said similar things about women before but I have never heard him get into this racist terrain.

He added: “If he knew the literature in the subject he would know he was out of his depth scientifically, quite apart from socially and politically.”
A spokeswoman for the Science Museum said it was looking into “things” concerning the security of the event on Friday.
She said: “This kind of thing always generates debate.”

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Craig Venter the Genome man strongly opposes such whimsical statements.MAN is product of both the nature and nurture.Science has now so much progressed and has come far away from such mindset as of Watson,a poor man now after making the said thought less statement.
Your comments on recent whimsical statements by so called renowned people and statesmen on African people is worth reading.Africa is the cradle of human evolution.We all owe greatly to our ancestors irrespective of what and where we are today on this globe .Still today genetically we are all almost identical as a whole,however individually unique we may be.
thanks for a thought provoking write-up.
Very interesting issue...I personally think that first and foremost intelligence has to be rightly defined, as there are many forms of intelligence (i.e mathematical, musical, emotional ...). Then comes 'purpose' (or 'value system' ) too. Some societies do not put emphasis on being bright, having your own theory etc, bur rather invest their energy in other capacities. Some surveys showed that Africans are childish in thought ( i.e Rushton 2005 ). Being less motivated in prooving oneself intelligent can surely reduce the working capacity of the brain and thereby usher in a kind of mental stagnation. Another key issue is enviromental (see also Hirsch 1991; Wahlsten 1990; Scarr 1987). A study came out with the conclusion that african or genetically mixed children who grew up in Britain with the same access to education and enviromental wellbeing as the british children, were found to be as intelligent as the british children ( Scarr 1987). Whether this allegated mental lower level of Africans is to be attributed to genetical differences whereby other influences are totaly eradicated, is the issue of the moment. Many see enviromental, social and psychological aspects underlying issues. But whether these are the underlying issues, remains in question.
The controversy stems from racial disparities in IQ scores. However the whole notion of IQ as a measure of overall intelligence has been pretty well debunked. See recent article in the New Yorker:

The article makes the case that certain groups of people score lower on the IQ test because they process and categorize information differently. Their "incorrect" responses stem from the context in which they live and work, and the test misinterprets this as lesser intelligence.

Poeple need to stop thinking of the IQ test as a measure of intelligence (as if such a complex and multi-faceted set of mental abilities could be clearly defined, deliniated, and determined by a single test). What the IQ test really measures is how well people do on the IQ test.



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