DNA pi­o­neer pun­ished over race re­marks

Taranaki Daily News - - News -

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

AP

Dr James Wat­son sold his No­bel medal, sug­gest­ing that he been os­tracised by much of the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity.

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