Twisted Coda


Given his statements sad is not the right word. But bizarre certainly and a weird coda to the career behind one of the great discoveries of the 20th Century: DNA. James Watson, who along with Francis Crick discovered DNA, the core building block and information transmitter of life on earth, has been forced to retire as chancellor of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island. This, of course, comes after last week when Watson told an interviewer that he is not optimistic about the future of Africa since, he believes, Africans have a lower average intelligence than whites.

Has he always been a racist? I’m not naive enough to believe that there are not many more than a few people who still believe such things. What does strike me as odd is that he expressed these views openly and unabashedly.

No profound observations. Just a passage that seems worth noting.

Late Update: TPM Reader LP responds …

In answer to your question, Watson has at least been a horrible racist for the past several years, probably his whole life, in addition to being a notorious sexist since the very beginning. I went to a talk of his at Berkeley while I was a molecular biology grad student there, and he spoke for an hour in a public setting making completely fabricated scientific claims as to links between skin color, obesity, happiness and sex drive. With some misogyny thrown in (women are only interested in getting men to buy them pretty dresses). Some female faculty walked out in the middle of it. The whole thing was written up by the SF Chronicle at the time, and it’s a pretty interesting story and they got absolutely every detail right:

I think the difference is that American scientists were used to it and had been ignoring it. It took an event outside the US to really bring the problem into focus (and more blatant statements, I suppose, though not by much).

Good riddance, I say.