Racism, science, politics, and James Watson.

Science, technology, and life.
Oct. 26 2007 9:54 AM

Doctored Watson

Racism, science, politics, and revisionism.

(Continued from Page 1)

And here's what he wrote later in his op-ed:

We do not yet adequately understand the way in which the different environments in the world have selected over time the genes which determine our capacity to do different things. The overwhelming desire of society today is to assume that equal powers of reason are a universal heritage of humanity. It may well be. But simply wanting this to be the case is not enough. This is not science.

Advertisement

Geographically separated in their evolution. Different environments in the world have selected over time the genes which determine our capacity. How much more genetic can you get?

The hypothesis of intellectual inferiority through separate evolution may be totally wrong. I hope my race's average intelligence isn't inferior. I hope nobody else's is, either. But at least it's a hypothesis. You can test IQ and other traits among populations. You can look for genetic similarities and differences. You can check geographically distinctive genes for relationships to intelligence. You can examine the extent to which "race" correlates with patterns of DNA. You can look for non-genetic causes of gaps in test performance. A lot of this research is already being done.

Watson's revisions don't contradict the hypothesis. They offer no evidence or theory to explain why it might be wrong. All they do is fudge its implications.

Now Watson says it was his idea to retire, never mind that his lab had already suspended him. He says it's time to leave because he's "closer now to 80 than 79," as though it weren't obvious that a guy who's still working at 79 but thinks 80 is a more suitable retirement age has been holding out for his birthday. Fudge, fudge, fudge.

Well, if he wants to paper over his bruised ego, that's his business. But racism, genetics, culture, black America, and the future of Africa are too important to be papered over.

It's clear from Watson's revisionism, reticence, and retirement that he wants to make his hypothesis go away. But wanting it isn't enough. That's not science. It's politics.

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

Are the Attacks in Canada a Sign of ISIS on the Rise in the West?

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Is It Offensive When Kids Use Bad Words for Good Causes?

Fascinating Maps Based on Reddit, Craigslist, and OkCupid Data

Culturebox

The Real Secret of Serial

What reporter Sarah Koenig actually believes.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea

Can Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu Pull Off One More Louisiana Miracle?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 23 2014 3:55 PM Panda Sluggers Democrats are in trouble. Time to bash China.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 23 2014 2:36 PM Take a Rare Peek Inside the Massive Data Centers That Power Google
  Life
Outward
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM Why Is an Obscure 1968 Documentary in the Opening Credits of Transparent?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM What Happens When You Serve McDonald’s to Food Snobs and Tell Them It’s Organic
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 4:36 PM Vampire Porn Mindgeek is a cautionary tale of consolidating production and distribution in a single, monopolistic owner.
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 23 2014 5:42 PM Seriously, Evolution: WTF? Why I love the most awkward, absurd, hacked-together species.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.