Written on Thursday, October 18, 2007 by Jessica

Sorry to address such a weighty subject on my normally fluffy blog, but I saw this article about Dr. James Watson, who is among three people credited with the discovery of the double helix. He's made questionable statements about race and gender in the past, and now he's at it again. Choice quotations:

The eminent biologist 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."
In the newspaper interview, he said there was no reason to think that races which had grown up in separate geographical locations should have evolved identically. He went on to say that although he hoped everyone was equal, "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true".
While I'm perfectly aware that some people hold such views, I was surprised to hear it from someone of his education and stature. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised. Racism is everywhere. You can probably even find it in the deepest recesses of my own mind.

It'll be interesting to see if he claims his statements were somehow taken out of context. I don't see how they could be rendered in such a way as to seem reasonable, but maybe I'm just not "smart" enough to figure it out. After all, I'm a woman and my brain is smaller than his...

UPDATE: Watson has apologized, saying: "I cannot understand how I could have said what I am quoted as having said."

He went on to say:
To all those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologize unreservedly. That is not what I meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no scientific basis for such a belief.
Well, as continents don't have genes, I never once drew the inference that Africa is somehow genetically inferior. I drew the inference that people who live in Africa or have descended from Africans are intellectually inferior.

He says it's not what he meant, but if so, I find myself wonder what he did mean. It doesn't appear that he attempted to explain how his statements had been misinterpreted. To me, it looks more like he realized what a terrible blunder he made. He's sorry for saying it, but not really sorry for thinking it. That's not good enough.

I wonder if I'm being too hard on the guy -- he's seventy-nine years old and was shaped by very different times from those that shaped me -- but I don't think so. There's just no excuse for such beliefs.

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