Tam's post on the socially unacceptable Nobel prize-winning scientist motivated me to take at the story a little more closely.
First, we have the line that got Dr. James Watson in so much trouble.
The controvery began with an October 14 interview Watson gave to the Sunday Times, which quoted him saying 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."
Yep. That would be one of those statements one should probably not make in a newspaper interview.
I do, briefly, have to confess to a little annoyance about the way we react to this sort of thing, though. I haven't heard or read anything about why the doctor is wrong, just about what an awful thing he said. What is "all the testing," Mr. Watson? Cite sources, sir, so that we may decide how you, as a reknowned biologist, interact with data.
But that isn't how we do things on the public stage these days. Watson said something mean, and now he shall be shunned. Which is too bad, because maybe, since he seems to be a pretty bright guy, he has things to say from which we might be able to learn.
Rule #1 of modern living - we shall learn nothing if it is not socially acceptable.
Rule #2 of modern living - we shall learn nothing from anyone who says anything socially unacceptable.
Dr. Watson (I am assuming the PhD, since it is not mentioned in my source article, but I think it's a safe assumption) seems to be one cranky old guy, with a plethora of odd little theories.
In 1997, Britain's Sunday Telegraph quoted Watson as saying that if a gene for homosexuality were isolated, women who find that their unborn child has the gene should be allowed to have an abortion.
There's something in that one for everybody to get all worked up about. Thought-provoking, though, isn't it?
During a lecture tour in 2000, he suggested there might be links between skin color and sexual prowess and between a person's weight and their level of ambition.
That one sounds like he was working up a pickup line at the annual Big Time Biologist Convention. "Hi, my name's Jim. You come here often? Can I buy you a drink? Wanna see my Nobel Prize? Did you know that pale white guys with wispy hair make the best lovers?"
And in a British TV documentary that aired in 2003, Watson suggested that stupidity was a genetic disease that should be treated.
I have the feeling that after a few gin-and-tonics, Watson would complete the above statement by shouting, "treated by shooting stupid people in the head!"