back to article Museum drops Watson talk in race row

The science museum has cancelled a talk by Nobel prize winner James Watson after the scientist, who won the gong for his part in discovering the structure of DNA, said that black people are less intelligent than white people. The museum said that it does not shy away from discussing difficult topics, but that "James Watson's …


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  1. David Emmett

    Ironic, really.

    As Jared Diamond points out in is excellent book "Guns, Germs And Steel," the main force driving genetic selection among white people was resistance to disease, as people in the Fertile Crescent discovered farming and started living in close quarters with animals.

    On the other hand, the main trait required by hunter-gatherer societies (such as many of those found in Africa) was observation, analysis and memory (i.e. the key parts of intelligence), as these are the skills which will help you find food in and survive the dangers of the ever-changing landscape of the hunter-gatherer existence.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have two problems with this...

    First, "black people are not as intelligent as white people" is not the same as "All our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really".

    Secondly, if he can back any of his statements up scientifically what's the fuss.

    This reminds me of people getting all upset a few years back when someone suggested that people from different races have different physical strengths and weaknesses. No shit, Sherlock.

  3. Big_Boomer

    So he gets his talk cancelled for being right?

    I have no idea if Afro/Caribbean people are smarter or not but this stupid assumption by governments and other political groups that everyone is the same is unbelievably narrow and shows that they have already lost their grip on reality.

    What scares me is that we TRUST these morons to govern us.

    Hello!?! Please take your statistical averages and acturarial tables and stuff them. I am sick of being treated as if I am average. I'm am not even close to average. In fact there is NO SUCH PERSON as the "average human".

    You tell it as it is Mr James Watson and to hell with the wimps who can't face facts.

  4. kevin elliott


    Is the world not prepared to discuss controversy.

    One could argue that different races produce people of differing physical size by comparing chinese and norwegians

    One can argue that different races produce people of different physical ability - look at the large numbers of black athletes at the top of their sports in multi-racial societies....

    However these are absolute measures based on speed, stature etc.

    There is no real absolute measure of intelligence - intelligence testing is fraught with problems related to age, education, culture, language - and the lack of a basic definition of intelligence. Is a gifted mathematician less intelligent because his language skills are poor?

    I have no problem with the debate - if fair and equitable terms can be found for it. But I question the need or benefit of it. Statements like this fuel the racial strife that we desperately need to do away with - whther it's black/white or muslim/serbian or german/jew or english/pakistani......

    Watson's doing himself and the world no favours by propounding stateemtns like this. I lived in Africa for many years, I met a wisdom amongst its people that would be hard to quantify in IQ terms. Saying blacks are less intelligent is a stupid (pun intended) and pointless statement - it's not provable and not helpful.

  5. PaulK

    In my opinion...

    What I find more objectionable is the egregious cretins who deny freedom to express an opinion however objectionable the opinion may be. It's not incitement to hatred, it's an opinion. Get over yourselves...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Diversity can't be brushed under the carpet

    If you accept Darwinism over Creationism then you also have to accept that people have evolved differently to cope with different environments which is exactly what this chap said, "there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically." He didn't mention race at all.

    The quote has been intentionally misinterpreted by the same namby pamby liberals who want to put everybody in the same bucket and have done away with streaming in schools for fear of offending the thick, who, in my experience are too thick to realise they have been offended. These same people come up with "no child left behind" which equates to "no child allowed to advance" as teachers spend the whole lesson trying to teach some dimwit that two plus two is four.

    When will being intelligent once again be something to be admired? Pretty soon well see hospitals named after footballers instead of emminent doctors. I understand a Spanish politican once got into a spot of trouble because he said that Spain was importing footballers and exporting brains. Why should people be cast as the bad guy for telling it like it is?

  7. Joe Stalin

    Just Desserts

    Gald to see him finally getting stuffed. If you know the story of the research into the structure of DNA, you'll know that Rosamund Franklin got robbed by Watson and Crick. Also those stuck up tossers at the Noble Insitute still hide behind the rule 'Dead peolpe can't be recognised'.That is Franklin did all the hard impirical research and Waston and Crick sailed in to her lab one day, read through her notes and used this to backup their theory for which they had bugger all data for.

    Yeah, where is that icon for blood boiling?

  8. robert cooke


    is this guy for real? can't he be tried under race hate laws or something. I hate to stop freedom of speech but we all know that certain sectors of society will cling to this drivel like combat 18 nutters do to mein kamp.

  9. B Johnson

    Sad society

    It is a sad reflection on a society that owes its well-being to science that political correctness is allowed to stifle legitimate scientific debate.

    I am not sure whether he is right or not, but he has a track record of scientific integrity, which gives some legitimacy to the debate.

    It sounds as though he is somewhat naive as to the media's role in such debate.

  10. Colin Jackson


    All of which has nothing to do with whether he is correct or not. I'd like him to be wrong, but wishing doesn't make it so. Let's see the evidence. If he has evidence, then his voice shouldn't be muzzled, no matter how distasteful his conclusions. Personally, I don't see what's wrong with treating people equally IN SOME RESPECTS (rights, opportunities, respect etc.) whether they're equal or not, irrespective of race, gender and handicap. But that desire for social equality shouldn't undermine the scientific concensus.

  11. Andy


    @Just Deserts: I agree.

    Seems to me that since there is no real test for intelligence worth a damn then his statement cannot be proved or disproved. Which makes it pointless and inflamatory. If I were the body in question I would want to talk to him first, but I would certainly be very tempted to cancel the lecture.

    (For the record, the "IQ Test" probably measures nothing more than your ability to pass it. No-one seems to be able to come up with a worthwhile definition of intelligence. So it's a contentious area to say the least.)

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    good riddance

    He might have gotten away with the Africa remark on social policies - but the comment ending with "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true." takes it from a social/geographic comment to one based purely on race. Not to mention unscientific as he's clearly referring to anecdotal evidence

    He's also made a few disparaging remarks about obese people, homosexuals etc. So I suspect he's just an everyday out of touch bigot rather than someone furthering the cause of racism with a scientific veneer.

    This isn't science, or opinion - it's merely airing your prejudices.

  13. Ian

    What's 'beyond acceptable' is NOT debating the idea.

    If you ban debate by saying that ideas are 'beyond acceptable debate' you close the door on proving or disproving them. This then leaves bigots with the opportunity to say that someone as eminent as Jim Watson supports their position and you have nothing to refute them with (beyond simple gainsaying) as the debate has not been had. Dangerous ideas MUST be debated so that the truth or falsity of them is established by reasoned argument, not by automatic prejudgement. Shutting Jim Watson up without debate IS prejudgement of the issue and, as the word implies, is as prejudiced as it's been implied Jim Watson is.

    I *believe* that black people are just as intelligent as white but I can't support that position with facts precisely because this area is so taboo that there isn't a significant body of unbiased research on the subject.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    The definition of racism widens every day

    I was called a racist and a neocon by 3 lefties at the pub the other day for calling islamism the most evil thing since nazism.

    One of those lefties earlier called Condi Rice a 'discgrace to her race' and an uncle tom.

    I hate islamism because it's so racist. Noblesse Oblige white liberals who think only they can decide what's right for blacks are as racist. He even went as far as saying that her interest in Pushkin (who after all was quarter black - he didn't know that!) was unnatural.

    The word 'racist' is now meaningless...

  15. Douglas

    Nazism's links to evolution

    Some food for thought in this debate - read the following article which discusses the link between evolutionary thinking, and racism, discrimination, and, taken to its natural conclusion, genocide.

    If you read Watson's comments in the light of this article, I'm sure you will see clearly how destructive evolutionary propaganda is.

  16. Charles Lennard


    Watson is a scientist but does not profess any standing in fields that would qualify him to speak with authority on matters of racial intelligence. His comments eg "people who have to deal with black employees..." have the same quality as the average casually racist in the pub on a Friday night.

  17. Cosmo

    Maybe he'd like to clarify his assertion...

    ... that "people who have to deal with black employees" find that we are not all equal.

    What the hell is that supposed to mean?

  18. Ian

    Typical political correctness idiocy.

    So black people are allowed to discuss the gift of generally larger genitalia that nature has given them but as soon as someone dare point out there another part of them is smaller - their capacity for intelligence it's suddenly not okay to point out racial differences?

    Even if you disagree that black people are less intelligent, the way to deal with it is not to silence people who suggest otherwise but to provide scientific counter-evidence to their claims and if they themselves don't have any evidence for their claims then treat their claims with the contempt they deserve.

    We need equality for all, that is freedom of expression for all, or censorship for all but this censorship of some groups, whilst allowing others to discuss their more controversal views only serves to fuel the racism fire.

    Do you really think one group can have respect for another when that group is arrested for hate crimes, or can lose their job for using words or doing things that the other group does day in day out, that they rub in the face of the initial group by doing and saying those things in every peice of their culture?

    The more you hide words and ideas, the more they're treated as taboo and offensive, if you let them out in the open that taboo and harm slowly fades away. If this guy Watson really has no foundation for his claims then let that come out in the open in response to his comments, otherwise you're proving that there's probably some truth in what he says whilst at the same time fuelling hatred against the groups that oppress the information, who ironically are the groups you're trying (miserably) to protect.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Taken out of context?

    I've done soem teacher training and one thing that we looked into was the theory of multiple intelligences. Was it that Watson was referring to this in his statement? if so then I don;t see the inherent racism in that, as stated, people will adapt to their surroundings and the multiple intellignece theory would support this?

    ALos during training there was a whole gamut of studies concerning the lack of academic achievements by afro carribean boys? Now I am sure that this isn;t down to genetics and more likely a result of the environment that these boys grow up in. However, if Watson has based his thoughts on this then he definitely needs to have a word with himself!

  20. David Neil

    @ robert cooke

    "I hate to stop freedom of speech but..."

    Using that logic you would argue against religion as fundamentalists might mis-interpret the teachings for violent means.

    If he can back up his statements with empirical evidence then he should be allowed to make the statement, if he cannot, well then he should be hammered publicly.

  21. Ben

    the science backs him up

    If you trust science, then you need to accept that Watson is right.

    However, it's more important that we discriminate between individuals than groups. The smartest person I know is black, but that doesn't stop me accepting that as a race they have a lower average IQ, which isn't accounted for just by lower socio-economic standing.

    The highest IQ doesn't belong to anglos (average 100). Asians come in at average 110 and asian-anglo "hybrids" come in at average 120 which means that the average anglo-asian has a higher IQ than around 90% of anglos.

    but from a smart guy who sits around most days, it's not your IQ, it's what you do with your life that matters.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    History, culture and related idiocy

    Classic case of an expert assuming that whatever's wrong, it must be related to whatever he happens to be an expert in.

    First, to those saying that separated groups would evolve differently -- probably so, but that isn't a basis for decision making. Is the average Netherlander taller than the average Chinese person? Yes, but do you want to be the one to go tell Yao Ming he can't shop at the Big & Tall store because "Chinese people, on average, are short"? If you look at different geographic regions, whether genotypically or phenotypically, you'll find that populations overlap far, far more than they differ. Or as somebody once said, if we were dogs we would all be the same breed. Moral: you can't make policy or decisions on the basis of "groups", only individuals.

    Second, anybody who knows anything about intelligence testing -- which is what Watson's silly statement actually refers to -- knows that scores are very strongly determined by culture and education. Also, average scores have been rising consistently (and tests renormalized accordingly) over the past decades to the extent that the average person a century ago would be considered an idiot by today's standards. Nobody knows why -- but its a fair bet that intelligence isn't evolving that fast! Moral: whatever so-called intelligence tests are measuring, it clearly isn't innate nor genetic.

    Third, as for Africa's problems, maybe Watson should get out of his own field a little and understand the historical path that has led to the Africa we have today, including the rise and fall of Bronze and Iron age cultures, climate change (no, not the current one...), the Islamic era, a long fallow period in which Africa was overtaken by the European renaissance, european colonization and exploitation, Soviet and US proxy wars during the Cold War era, right up to today's exploitative Commodity Economics. As a result of all that, African politics today are about where European politics were 300 years ago, with the added spice of 20th century weaponry... *That* is why Africa is a mess, not because Africans are somehow less smart than Westerners.

  23. Martin Benson

    This argument is not new....

    Eysenck and Jensen came out with the work that led to this sort of statement, based on "intelligence" tests in the mid-seventies. The work has been seriously discredited; what it came down to was in the US, black people tend to come from less well educated homes, and as a result, their scores were lower. Further, if my memory serves me correctly, the amounts of "less intelligent" came out to something less that 5 points on the IQ scale - not really a huge difference - and certainly not enough for a suggestion that "people who have to deal with black employees find [them to be less intelligent]".

    And people have, in the past, tried to prove that women are less intelligent than men - and yes, men have scored higher in the tests they used. Again, this was due to the fact that women were not as well educated as men in the past. There's no evidence now that women are less intelligent than men; in fact, if school work is anything to go by, the reverse is more likely to be true!

    Someone said above that if he can back these statements up with science, he should be able to state them. But the science ISN'T there. He's just spouting prejudices. Unfortunate, but there it is.

  24. Ferry Boat

    Revised direct debit


    I'm sorry, but if you reference such a website then everything you say becomes invalid. Go back to being the capital of the Isle of Man, it's what you do best.

    As to the Watson chap, some of his comments are silly, but let people point out why. Debate the issue. People are different, there is no such thing as an average person. At least the Bristol Uni chap says he'll be questioned on his ideas.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Intelligence can be measured but only crudely

    After all, a Masai warrior might struggle with calculus, but he sure as hell would be better at hunting lions than I would. I'm pretty stupid when it comes making a kayak out of sealskins too.

    As for Douglas' assertion that the natural conclusion to [proposing] the theory of evolution is genocide, get a grip man. Just because I believe that evolution happens doesn't mean that I'm going to take up eugenics as a hobby, although after reading your comment, it's starting to look tempting...

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @andy - intelligence testing

    If you look at why so called "intelligence testing" is flawed, you 'll find that a principal reason cited is that various racial backgrounds yield different curves on similar tests. Watson is just offering a different theory as to why, the tests are not flawed, the people are different.

  27. Lickass McClippers

    @ Ferry Boat

    "@Douglas. Go back to being the capital of the Isle of Man, it's what you do best."

    Fricking hilarious..!!!!!!! Well, to some like myself, with a bunch of inbred relatives that live there, it is...

    PS - Where's the 'off topic' icon..??

  28. Anonymous Coward


    At all the kneejerk "oh you PC liberals are gagging debate" responses in here of all places. Didn't realise the reg was a BNP pub, or a suburban "I'm not a racist but..." tea party... who's "stifling" debate?

    What debate?

    Let's get things straight:

    1. His statements are unqualifiable, garbage, and clearly designed to sell the book. How can continental or racial intelligence be measured?

    2. He did mention race, when he mentioned "black employees" not being equal, so please, drop the "not racial, just science" cards.

    3. I am amazed that people here seem to have some kind of idea that "intelligence" can be tested and made statements about, let alone on the level of entire races. Height, strength and body mass can be measured... QED.

    4. Just because someone won a Nobel or explained DNA does not mean they have credentials in this area, or indeed any area. Certainly not any in the social skills market, anyways.

    5. nobody seems willing to explain why "racial intelligence" needs to be discussed? All you people claiming to be stifled? I have lived, worked and interacted with many black people and one subject never raised its head was their relative genius or thickness.

    6. once again it appears we have a cry of 'debate is being suppressed' when all that's happenning is that stupid remarks are being recieved with dismay.

    Discuss what you want, just don't expect anyone to think you're too bright for wanting to debate "are africans brainy, like"

    I'd also like to add that this man clearly exists in some bubble, or else he'd at least have a personal anecdote about a "thick black man" to back up his poison with.

    Can you take back Nobel Prizes, on the basis of ignorant, unscientific behaviour? If someone makes the human racer *dumber*, perhaps...?

  29. Gilleain Torrance

    The Mismeasure of Man

    Watson may be an eminent scientist, but that doesn't make him right. Of course he is _trivially_ right when he says that different "geographically separated" groups _might_ have different average intelligences. He then suggests that this has actually been proved, which it hasn't.

    As for IQ tests and race, this has been covered in a book by Gould (The Mismeasure of Man) in which he describes the problems with these tests (they tend to test the ability to take an IQ test, for example).

    In any case, I understood that there was more variation within African groups, than with the rest of the world. In other words, non-africans are less genetically variable than different African tribes. Of course, he doesn't suggest that the Zulus might be more intelligent than "Whites", as he clearly has a racist bias.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The science isn't there

    "... If you trust science, then you need to accept that Watson is right.."

    Well as you are such an expert on intelligence, perhaps you could define it ? As has rightly been mentioned above intelligence can be measured in a range of ways. One of which is an ability to do puzzles.

    Arguments about political correctness aside. In this case Watson is using pseudo-science and his scientific credentials to back up his own prejudices.

  31. Mike


    There's no question that "people who have to deal with black employees..." was a racist comment, he may have said it because of personal experience, but that doesn't excuse it (it just explains it), by categorising all black people together and implying that anyone with black employees will have the same experience because of their "blackness" makes him a bigot.

    In many cases there is a measurable gap between white and black academic achievement in schools, however most empirical research finds the root cause points towards education and not ability.

    As several readers have pointed out there is a difference between intelligence and academic achievement which some other readers don't seem to understand.

    Let's put that in perspective, Mr Watson "concerns for the future of Africa", does he think that the policy makers are so retarded that it can bring a country down? that there are no intelligent people in Africa or if there are they have no influence? maybe the political environment in Africa and how people attain power is a valid topic for debate but not dismissing an entire country because of race.

    As a general note there are differences that can affect groups, alpha-actinin-3 concentration in Kenyan runners for example may contribute to ability but diet, training and environment play a much larger factor.

    The story of black men having larger genitalia is often perpetuated by white people, it's racist but tollerated because it's a complementary trait, it's not an insult to non blacks, to indicate that you cant work with someone because of their race is not in the same ballpark (is there a joke in there somewhere?)

    So, to continue the logical topic and abstract slightly, as girls are out performing boys in school and have been so for years, why do men have better salaries and almost all the political power in the UK? will it make any difference to the future of the UK? or will misogynistic middle class racists continue to keep the power and money while living off the life-work of unrecognised others?

  32. Marie Godfrey

    Watson and Bush

    James Watson reminds me of someone else who speaks with his own--often misguided--conviction. Just because he's famous doesn't make him right. Even in his own speech, during which he stated that Africans are inferior intellectually and that genetics data support this, Watson says that it will be 15 years before we identify intelligence genes. So what is his statement based on?

    It's obvious that readers (probably including me) see only specific pieces of the article. I appreciate The Register's attaching quotes to sources--speech vs. recent book. I also appreciate the final comment on taking Rosalind's data and using it. I don't dispute the Nobel committee's restriction of the prize to living people--the intent is for recipients to use the money they receive for further research. However, since the prize is limited to three people--very often US people--I doubt that Watson's assertion that Rosalind would have received the prize had she been alive is accurate. She would have never received the prize--another example of bias in this world.

    Way to go, Jim, you've got people talking about genetics again. I only wish you had chosen some reasonable science to back up your assertions.

    Marie Godfrey, blogger for

  33. robert cooke

    @ daid neil

    "Using that logic you would argue against religion as fundamentalists might mis-interpret the teachings for violent means."

    That sounds like a great idea! show me the emperical evidence of god. or the evidence against the noodly apendeged one.

  34. Mark O

    These comments should be shot down - not just dismissed as racist

    My problem with the way Watson's comments have been dealt with is that they have simply been dismissed as racist instead of being tackled head on and seriously debated. Some will argue that you give credibility to a flawed position when you dignify it with a response, but I would argue otherwise.

    There is a large part of the population who believe that Watson is being dismissed purely because of 'Political Correctness.' In other words, they think he is right, but that he is being ignored because his statements are not socially acceptable. These are the people who need to be shown the scientific evidence that Watson is wrong.

    A few points like the following would help:

    * Childhood nutrition plays a major part in mental development and combined with education levels, can explain away any racial or geographical difference in 'measured intelligence'

    * The measurement of intelligence is extremely subjective - contrary to popular belief, there is no 'standard IQ test'

    * Comparisons with sporting capability are irrelevant - nobody has ever suggested that a person should not have the right to stand for parliament because he can't run fast, but a perceived lack of intelligence has been used to justify disenfranchisement throughout history.

    * The same tests which purport to show that Africans have lower intelligence also show that Asians have higher intelligence. This is not really relevant, but its fun to see the reactions of white supremacists when you point this out.

  35. Ian

    If only people understood what intelligence was...

    Quotes like this instantly negate people from intelligent debate on, well, intelligence:

    "After all, a Masai warrior might struggle with calculus, but he sure as hell would be better at hunting lions than I would. I'm pretty stupid when it comes making a kayak out of sealskins too."

    Diseases do a better job of picking off lions than you could, likewise lions themselves make better hunters than you, that doesn't make either of them intelligent and this is exactly where this debate historically comes from, the idea that as per your example, people in some more isolated African tribes still maintain natural traits such as the ability to hunt well because it suits them to their enviroment far better than being intellectuals would. If you took a group of newborn children from these tribes and put them through the British education system alongside an equivalent group of children with long Western European blood lines or even far Eastern blood lines then it is absolutely certain that the average results of the African children would be lower. On the same note however you could take the European or far Eastern blood line group and put them in the African tribal system and they too would be outperformed by the native African children.

    All that said however, I think someone here made an interesting point which has more philosophical depth than he perhaps realised, the question of whether we even really need to find out if different groups have different levels of intelligence. Does it really benefit society if some group is known conclusively to be worse in some area than another group? That's certainly an interesting question with no right or wrong answer other than that I suppose it's down to the society that begs the question. Unfortunately however, it seems certain members of our society have made the decision for the rest of us.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    que ?

    "If you took a group of newborn children from these tribes and put them through the British education system alongside an equivalent group of children with long Western European blood lines or even far Eastern blood lines then it is absolutely certain that the average results of the African children would be lower. On the same note however you could take the European or far Eastern blood line group and put them in the African tribal system and they too would be outperformed by the native African children."

    That's a hell of an assertion, 'absolutely certain' suggests it is little more than an assertion. Proper research to back this up ?

    That aside, I think you have done a good job of destroying the analogy - rather than the argument it was trying to represent (unless you can prove the above) I notice you ignored the kayak analogy for example.

  37. Rick Brasche

    "everybody knows this", or a consensus of racists...

    ...and you can give him a Nobel Peace Prize too. doesn't have to be provable, can be based on biased testing (see "The Tuskegee Airmen") and even court-disproved lies (how many "facts" did the British Courts dispel?), but get that "consensus' of the same cherry-picked narrow-minded morons and it becomes Media Truth. I bet I could find "hundreds" of "scientists" who believe the same thing, and that's enough to start the Genocides, since anyone disagreeing is obviously "on the payroll" of black/indian/jewish/gypsy/gay people,

    But this doesn't go along with the Media's bosses, not yet anyways. After the boundless oil money that pays for this kid-gloveing of Islamic terrorism and racial/religious intolerance has put perverted visions of Koranic law in charge, this sort of thing will be what leads the sheep-minded liberals to round up the "inferior" races.

    Just like in Germany before, and in American Academia before WWII-Eugenics was an acceptable topic for the idle Hollywood and University Elite. Even now, the "tolerant" ones pop off with eugenical ideas, claiming 'saving the planet" by "reducing population". Never adding themselves to the population to be "reduced".

    It's coming, most of us will live to see this evil within our lifetimes, assuming we live a natural lifespan. A day will come when you'll wish you could see "gangsta's" on the corners, remembering the sweet swaying of voluptuous Latinas walking down the street, laughing at the latest drama tales from your flaming nelly neighbor's dating experiences. Where the posters of the "ideal couple" are not just making you jealous because your skin is too fair/too dark or your hair too light, your nose too big or small-it's because they are allowed high paying jobs and you aren't.

    There's a very good reason why England and America house such diversity (while the rest actively do not accept anything but "The Race" in power), and it is *not* the recent multi-culti agenda either.

  38. Chad Larson

    There shouldn't be such a thing

    "James Watson's recent comments have gone beyond the point of acceptable debate and we are as a result canceling his talk at the museum"

    And where should the line be drawn in what is "acceptable debate" within the scientific community? At one time it was beyond acceptable to suggest the earth revolved around the sun.

    All assumptions should be subject to debate.

  39. david Silver badge

    Nobel winners always have ridiculus ideas

    That's how they become Nobel prize winners.

    They also think that their ridiculus ideas are true -- that's how they become Nobel prize winners -- and the whole Nobel prize thing confirms their belief that they have an outside line on the truth.

    Most of us go to university and learn that there are other people who are smatter and better educated than we are. Some people have a different experience. Even though a university graduate, Watson is a classic "self-made man": His life experience is that he is smarter than everyone else.

  40. Brian
    Black Helicopters

    After Mismeasure of Man might I then suggest....

    A book called "War against the Weak" by Edwin Black. This will take the information gleaned in Gould's book and show it in the context of the early 20th century to present, especially the consequences.

    The reason I bring this up is that while I do believe that opinions (esp. the nuttier ones) that have social impact must be discussed....this opinion expressed by Watson already has been formalized, debated, dismissed, re-examined, re-debated, fervently re-dismissed....only to find its latest incarnation with Watson in the present day. The upshot is we have been here before, only last time heavy costs were paid.

    In all fairness, I feel I must warn potential readers that Edwin Black is an obsessive fact-checker and much so that by chapter 2 of this book you may feel the urge rub your temporal lobes with 80-grit sandpaper. But it is engrossing and well worth the effort to read, as was "Mismeasure of man".

    As to the thought that evolutionary theory leads (inevitibly, presumably) to kinda falls on its face if many (probably most) of those of us that have studied evolutionary theory and accept the science supporting it also abhor racism and discrimination rather than embracing it.

    As a side was the right wingers that came up with No Child Left Behind. True story. Look it up.

    Must go....choppers are getting close now.

  41. John Prew
    IT Angle

    Since when?

    Looking through most these posts i have to wonder, since when does intelligence = intellectualism. (As Finnbar pointed out with the Masai tribesman analogy). People from a different environment focus their attentions on alternative things. We've had it easy in Europe, so yes people have time to 'waste' on intellectual pursuits. Compare that to rural Africa. Yeah an African isn't going to be building a nuclear reactor in the back streets of Burkina Faso, but that doesn't make him less intelligent. It means his intelligence is geared differently. As initially the scientist stated. And what is the best method of testing this....well to place someone from the subcontinent in an 'alien' setting.

    I've no doubt the Scientist in question is an unqualified bigot, but dismissing his evidence on those grounds isn't Science. Stop these knee jerk reactions because something wasn't phrased 'PC'. Lets take the evidence out, show it the light of day, and look at it logically. He might have phrased it badly, but his inital statement was valid, people from different environments adapt differently. No where in that do i see anything saying 'Black people are less intelligent', but 'people from harsher environments such as Africa think about different things to people living comfortably in Europe/the United States.'

  42. Fragula The Furry

    It truly pains me

    that the dullest scum always seems to rise to the top in a bureaucracy, be that a university, a museum, or a government, and then strive to bring the rest of of our intellects down to their level.

    There seems to be a gestalt design flaw in human society. However...

    Are these people so stupid to not see that simply /denying/ the statistical and genetic differences between the races /causes problems/ for all the races involved.

    If these people have their way, II do not doubt that soon it will be "unacceptable" to note race in any way.. I.e. that persons "of afro-carribean descent" (now that myth is a larf in itself!!!) are perhaps of a darker colour, let alone that they might have more tendancy to sicke cell disease, or less tendency to sunburn.

    The only "ism" involved here isn't racism, but almost as evil, a horrid, blinkered, and misguided totalitarian ideology of egalitarianism.

    Investigate and *Celebrate* our differences, for, for every con there is a pro, so let the /scientists/ not bureaucrats investigate the actual facts, rather than gutlessly spouting "acceptable" PC dogma, and let the courts decide the truth in due course as to what the differences between "genetics", "racism" and "race hate" are.

    James Watson's words require a more intelligent interpretation than the "soundbyte to the ears of Joe Average", or to the ears of the 34 trustees of the Watson School of Biological Sciences, or those of the persons responsible at the science museum, it would seem.

    The nature and statistical math of genetics, merely one of many things biasing the die (dices, for the dumbasses reading) of fate whendeciding an individuals natural potential, before what nurture, opportunity, and pure chance, make of that, should be understood, or at least considered, by persons attempting to understand what he is saying. Perhaps he just aint dumbed it down enough.

    Clearly that, given that there /are/ obvious genetic differences, a person of African, Asian, Oriental or European descent, has, including both negative and positive discrimination, a number of hurdles and advantages, to overcome or to utilise, and better understanding of those hurdles and advantages will help us all!

    So lets all take our heads out of the sand, and out from the rectums of the our most evil predjudicies, those against ideas that might help us. Let us remove the blinkers of P.C. and find, and understand those truths that will eventually benefit us all.

  43. Douglas

    @Ferry Boat - I will!

    I am just saving up the airfaire, then I am going to claim my Isle.

    As for the following comment:

    "I'm sorry, but if you reference such a website then everything you say becomes invalid"

    Well, I have another web reference you may want to check out.

  44. Sweep


    "people who have to deal with black employees" find that we are not all equal."

    people that have to deal with American employees would probably tell you the same thing

  45. Michael

    Rational Thinking

    The context of the quote is in reference to social policy. *IF* social policies are based on unscientific, religious assumptions (and we know that they are) THEN the outcome will be unexpected should it happen that the assumptions are wrong.

    the big assumption is, of course, at the very heart of "political correctness". Now then, those of you with some memory will remember 20 years ago when it was forbidden to suggest that men and women were in any way different; apart from certain obvious physical difference which the experts hastened to assure us had no social meaning.

    Then along came "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" and dared declare what pretty much everyone knew all along; but suddenly it was "okay" to accept the differences. Corporate and social policy at the time was rather absurd as you may remember. Next in line was "ADA" -- Americans with Disabilities Act. Anyone can do anything; so long as you hire an aide at twice the cost of the disabled employee. In theory, the Aide could also be disabled -- and you'd have to hire an aide for the aide.

    Folks, time to step up to your plates; which is it going to be? If it is evolution and Darwinism, then get scientific, there is no "all men are created equal" because they weren't created AT ALL. On the other hand, if you have a religious plate, then you have quite a lot more freedom since you have a few thousand to choose from. The Indian (as in, the continent of India) has religion and it most certainly does NOT have "all men are created equal". Most of the world simply does not have the Christian concept that all men are created equal, and as we have seen, even people who profess science still revert to a religious belief when it comes to sociology -- and for good reason! Religion is the basis, the reason, the motivation for human equality. Darwinism is NOT about equality; in fact, the very opposite (allowing for the possibility that some kinds of altruism *may* be beneficial to the race to a degree that exceeds its cost to the individual).

    So far as it goes, I am compelled to agree with Watson -- basing social policy on American moral assumptions (ie, what is happening in Iraq) is probably not going to work. Never mind whether the factor being discussed is "intelligence" or some other factor; WHATEVER it is, we cannot scientifically assume that geographically diverse races evolved exactly the same; and very small differences lead to large outcomes. I believe arctic and subarctic climates compel a degree of group-think and group-behavior that is not found in equatorial climates. It has nothing to do with race per se, but everything to do with thousands of years of surviving your climate. Iceland is a very good example and they have the most egalitarian, succesfully functioning society I have ever seen (I lived there for two years). The same model would be a disaster in the United States of America or almost anywhere else for that matter. Egalitarianism works ONLY when everyone, or almost everyone, participates in a meaningful way. throw in a bunch of freeloaders and the system collapses.

    Religious or not; Darwinism is alive and well and the successful society will be one that CORRECTLY implements social policies in accordance with the capabilities of the population being considered. If you do not consider these capabilities, you will do foolish things.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Genes or Memes?

    Apparently there is only a 2% genetic difference between humans and higher primates. Within humankind as a whole the genetic difference is 0.5%. In both instances, though, it is the difference that makes a difference. However subtle the genetic differences between people may be, we are clearly not all [biologically speaking] equal. This is not a basis upon which to discrimate between people, though. As members of the human family sharing this planet we are [socio-politically speaking] all equal.

    More profound than genetic differences, however, are "memetic" differences i.e. the different ways that people [as individuals and in groups] think, believe and view the cosmos. Ephemeral they may be, but memes frame our consciousness and literally detirmine how we see the world. It is from memes that our; thoughts, words, actions... and ultimately circumstances derive. This is where the real differences between people lie - unfortunately the conflicts to.

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