DNA pioneer punished over race remarks
A scientist whose DNA discovery won him a Nobel prize has been stripped of the last of his honorary titles after he repeated a belief that blacks were intellectually inferior to whites.
James Watson, 90, made the genetic claims in a documentary about his life on an American TV channel.
Marilyn Simons, chairwoman of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, which Watson led from 1968 to 1994, said that his comments were not supported by evidence and condemned ‘‘the misuse of science to justify prejudice’’.
The laboratory revoked three honorary titles, including chancellor emeritus.
Watson shared the 1962 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine for the 1953 discovery that DNA is formed of an elegant double helix. His collaboration with Francis Crick at Cambridge University made him one of the most prominent scientists of the 20th century.
His career has long been overshadowed by ugly remarks. In 2007 Watson told The Sunday Times that 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’’. When asked by Mark Mannucci for the American documentary on the PBS channel if he had changed those views, Watson said: ‘‘No, not at all. I would like for them to have changed, that there be new knowledge which says 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.’’ He has also been accused of antisemitism, homophobia and
‘‘My dad’s statements might make him out to be a bigot and discriminatory but that’s not true. They just represent his rather narrow interpretation of genetic destiny.’’ Rufus Watson, one of Dr James Watson’s sons
sexism. He told The Sunday Telegraph: ‘‘If you could find the gene which determines sexuality and a woman decides she doesn’t want a homosexual child, well, let her.’’ In 2007 he argued that antisemitic comments could be legitimate ‘‘just like some anti-Irish feeling is justified’’. He added: ‘‘If you can’t be criticised, that’s very dangerous. You lose the concept of a free society.’’ He also argued for a link between skin colour and libido. ‘‘That’s why you have Latin lovers,’’ he said. ‘‘You’ve never heard of an English lover. Only an English patient.’’
In 2014 he sold his Nobel medal, suggesting that he been ostracised by much of the scientific community.
Rufus Watson, one of Watson’s sons, said that his father, who is in a nursing home after a car crash, had ‘‘very minimal’’ awareness of his surroundings. He added: ‘‘My dad’s statements might make him out to be a bigot and discriminatory but that’s not true. They just represent his rather narrow interpretation of genetic destiny.’’
– The Times
Dr James Watson sold his Nobel medal, suggesting that he been ostracised by much of the scientific community.