DNA dis­cov­erer James Wat­son stripped of hon­ors over views on race

The Guardian Australia - - World News - Erin Durkin in New York

A New York lab­o­ra­tory has cut ties with James Wat­son, the No­bel Prizewin­ning sci­en­tist who helped dis­cover DNA, over “rep­re­hen­si­ble” com­ments in which he said race and in­tel­li­gence are con­nected.

The Cold Spring Har­bor Lab­o­ra­tory said it was re­vok­ing all ti­tles and hon­ors from Wat­son, 90, who led the lab for many years.

The lab “un­equiv­o­cally re­jects the un­sub­stan­ti­ated and reck­less per­sonal opin­ions Dr James D Wat­son ex­pressed on the sub­ject of eth­nic­ity and ge­net­ics”, its pres­i­dent, Bruce Still­man, and chair of the board of trustees Mar­i­lyn Si­mons said in a state­ment.

“Dr Wat­son’s state­ments are rep­re­hen­si­ble, un­sup­ported by science, and in no way rep­re­sent the views of CSHL, its trustees, fac­ulty, staff, or stu­dents. The lab­o­ra­tory con­demns the mis­use of science to jus­tify prej­u­dice.”

With Fran­cis Crick and Ros­alind Franklin, the sci­en­tist was one of the re­searchers who dis­cov­ered the dou­ble he­lix stru­cure of DNA in 1953.

In 2007, the lab re­moved him as chan­cel­lor af­ter 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”.

He also said that while he wished the races were equal, “peo­ple who have to deal with black em­ploy­ees find this not true.”

Wat­son apol­o­gized at the time but in a re­cent doc­u­men­tary he said his views have not changed.

“Not at all,” he said in the PBS doc­u­men­tary Amer­i­can Masters: De­cod­ing Wat­son, the New York Times re­ported.

“I would like for them to have changed, that there be new knowl­edge that says that your nur­ture is much more im­por­tant than na­ture. But I haven’t seen any knowl­edge. And there’s a dif­fer­ence on the av­er­age be­tween blacks and whites on IQ tests. I would say the dif­fer­ence is, it’s ge­netic.”

The Cold Spring Har­bor Lab­o­ra­tory said it was re­vok­ing Wat­son’s hon­orary ti­tles, which in­clude chan­cel­lor emer­i­tus, Oliver R Grace pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus, and hon­orary trustee.

The lat­est com­ments “ef­fec­tively re­verse the writ­ten apol­ogy and re­trac­tion Dr Wat­son made in 2007”, the lab said, adding it ap­pre­ci­ates his legacy of sci­en­tific dis­cov­er­ies and lead­er­ship of the in­sti­tu­tion but can no longer be as­so­ci­ated with him.

“The state­ments he made in the doc­u­men­tary are com­pletely and ut­terly in­com­pat­i­ble with our mis­sion,

val­ues, and poli­cies, and re­quire the sev­er­ing of any re­main­ing ves­tiges of his in­volve­ment,” Si­mons and Still­man said.

The Times re­ported that Wat­son’s fam­ily said he was un­able to re­spond, hav­ing been in med­i­cal care since a car ac­ci­dent in Oc­to­ber. The PBS in­ter­view was filmed last sum­mer.

Pho­to­graph: Jose Men­dez/EPA

James Wat­son has been stripped of sev­eral hon­orary ti­tles over ‘rep­re­hen­si­ble’ com­ments in which he said race and in­tel­li­gence arecon­nected.

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