It is tempting to write that Dr. James Watson, one of the three men who discovered the structure of DNA and shared the Nobel Prize in 1962, is history, but in fact he is certain to be altogether expunged from the history books. Watson, at the age of 79, unwittingly pressed the self-destruct button when he told Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper that he was “inherently gloomy about the prospects 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 was in the UK to promote a book but his speaking engagements were abruptly cancelled and he returned to the USA in disgrace. Despite later apologies and recantations, his goose was cooked by those few words. He has since been suspended from and then resigned his post as chancellor of the prestigious Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory where his four decades of work will forthwith go unmentioned.
Sherlock Holmes would surely have said Elementary my dear Watson! Unfortunately your remarks contained one fatal element, political incorrectness”. Watson it seems has a history of being unyielding and risk-taking, but telling a newspaper that he believed Africans are on average less intelligent than other races, revealed his ignorance of politics and speech in this new century and the role in this played by the Media. I can only assume that amongst his scientific colleagues his viewpoint is not considered outrageous so that he did not realize that in the bigger world you cannot say what you think. Watson is not a psychologist and many who have rushed to denounce him (and improve their chances of favorable Media treatment) are quick to point this out. The implication is that only psychologists can talk authoritatively on the subject of racial intelligence. Curiously, this ruling does not apply to climate change for on that topic every scientific discipline weighs in with authority provided they are part of a ‘consensus’.
One fact about Watson that predictably has received virtually no media coverage is his political fund-giving. He has been a regular and substantial contributor to the Democrat Party and recently to Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer. That too, will be expunged from the record along with his career accomplishments.
Let me say that I do not share his belief about racial intelligence. As readers of this website will know, I always advocate trusting one’s lying eyes when experts reach a consensus on anything. I have a black neighbor and I know he is more intelligent than me. I also cannot believe that a race that has produced Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Milt Jackson and many other outstanding and groundbreaking musicians, not to mention Clarence Thomas and Professor Walter Williams is lacking in intelligence. I suppose it might be argued that such people also had Caucasian ancestors for I doubt that there are many African American descendants from the slavery era who are not mixed race. This fact alone makes nonsense of every attempt to categorize ‘Black’ Americans by race. Why should a mixed race person be labeled black or white? It also makes nonsense of claims for reparations but that’s another story.
Still, there is something remarkable about Africa’s lack of historic attainment. South of the Sahara there appears to be little evidence of past civilization worth talking about. It is easy to explain the primitiveness of native Australians in an isolated continent and the same goes for people in the Amazon jungles, but Africa was never that isolated and not at all on its coasts. Watson was surely right to be inherently gloomy about Africa’s prospects, even if his reasons turn out to be flawed. He is not alone in thinking that Africa is a bottomless pit for aid.
On this website we believe that free speech and scientific enquiry should never be politically muzzled for fear of hurting someone’s feelings or offending some angry group. We have to be alarmed when someone is witch-hunted out of public and professional life for holding views that are unpopular or uncomfortable yet not demonstrably wrong. I doubt that Watson’s views could ever be proved true or false since they are so generalized but academic arguments are useful and in the end have to stand on their merits after exhaustive debate. No line of enquiry should be off-limits.
The motives of those who rushed to denounce Watson are mostly dangerous ones. They seek to impose the Party Line on all of us and make dissension punishable. The Media Class is all in favor of that. In this instance it is about race but the same Party Line is being imposed about sexual behavior, abortion, climate, immigration and ultimately every topic, as they march us to a worldwide totalitarianism.
Whilst I am writing this blog, the Antarctic is reported to have thicker ice than at any time in recorded history. The climate scientist who is pointing this out has clearly failed to learn from the fate of poor old Watson.