Thursday, October 25, 2007

say it ain's so, watson !

Uh oh. Nobel Prize winner James Watson - yes, the Watson from the Watson and Crick DNA double helix structure discovery fame - has just stirred a controversy for claiming that black people are less intelligent than white people in an interview with The Times Online:

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”.

Seems like Watson has a penchant for saying controversial things, like when he suggested that stupidity is a disease and that we should genetically engineer girls to be pretty!

But in a documentary series to be screened in the UK on Channel 4, Watson says that low intelligence is an inherited disorder and that molecular biologists have a duty to devise gene therapies or screening tests to tackle stupidity.

"If you are really stupid, I would call that a disease," says Watson, now president of the Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory, New York. "The lower 10 per cent who really have difficulty, even in elementary school, what’s the cause of it? A lot of people would like to say, ‘Well, poverty, things like that.’ It probably isn’t. So I’d like to get rid of that, to help the lower 10 per cent."

Watson, no stranger to controversy, also suggests that genes influencing beauty could also be engineered. "People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would be great."

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