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posted by LaminatorX on Tuesday December 02 2014, @10:30PM   Printer-friendly
from the come-here-I-need-you dept.

Nicholas St. Fleur writes at The Atlantic that in the sad final chapter to a career that traces back to racist remarks he made in 2007, James Watson, the famed molecular biologist and co-discoverer of DNA, is putting his Nobel Prize up for auction, the first Nobel laureate in history to do so. Watson, best known for his work deciphering the DNA double helix alongside Francis Crick in 1953, made an incendiary remark regarding the intelligence of black people that lost him the admiration of the scientific community in 2007 making him, in his own words, an "unperson". That year, The Sunday Times quoted Watson as saying that he felt “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.” Watson added that although some think that all humans are born equally intelligent, “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.” Watson has a history of making racist and sexist declarations, according to Time. His insensitive off-the-cuff remarks include saying that sunlight and dark skin contribute to “Latin lover” libido, and that fat people lack ambition, which prevents them from being hired. At a science conference in 2012, Watson said of women in science, “I think having all these women around makes it more fun for the men but they’re probably less effective.” To many scientists his gravest offense was not crediting Rosalind Franklin with helping him deduce the structure of DNA.

Watson is selling his prized medallion because he has no income outside of academia, even though for years he had served on many corporate boards. The gold medal is expected to bring in between $2.5 million and $3.5 million when it goes to auction. Watson says that he will use the money to purchase art and make donations to institutions that have supported him, such as the University of Chicago and Watson says the auction will also offer him the chance to “re-enter public life.” “I’ve had a unique life that’s allowed me to do things. I was set back. It was stupid on my part,” says Watson “All you can do is nothing, except hope that people actually know what you are.”

 
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  • (Score: 1) by PartTimeZombie on Tuesday December 02 2014, @10:46PM

    by PartTimeZombie (4827) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 02 2014, @10:46PM (#122037)

    So if he is claiming that Africans are not as smart as everyone else, can anyone point me to these tests that show this?

  • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 02 2014, @11:06PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 02 2014, @11:06PM (#122044)
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 03 2014, @12:35AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 03 2014, @12:35AM (#122078)

      "adopted by advantaged white families"

      Do adopted children get the same treatment as biological children? The same willingness to invest into their education (ie: tutors, etc...).

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 03 2014, @12:41AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 03 2014, @12:41AM (#122081)

        Tutors, preschool, books, college tuition, school supplies, heck even cars and transportation expenses, the need to work, nutritional requirements (are they more likely to cook healthier foods for a biological child vs an adopted one, buy them fruits and vegetables and encourage them to eat right), etc...

        How are biological children treated differently and how may that factor into the equation.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 03 2014, @02:03AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 03 2014, @02:03AM (#122093)

          Are we talking adopted, or foster?

          Foster kids are taken in as a profit center for the home, and, no, they don't get equal treatment (in general.)

          Adopted kids, on the other hand, are often treated as well as biological children, and, on the whole - due to the selectivity of the adoption process vs pregnancy, the average adoptee is probably better off than the average biological child.

      • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Wednesday December 03 2014, @04:24PM

        by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {asdf.fi}> on Wednesday December 03 2014, @04:24PM (#122301) Homepage
        Adopted white kids in all-white homes might - and the kids may not even know they're adopted.
        Adopted two-non-white-parent kids in all-white homes quote probably can work out from an early age that they don't really fit in in every way.

        The whole study looks completely flawed, as there's *no control*. Nothing which isolates "race of child". If they start adding some figures for all-white kids adopted by two non-white parents, then that would go some of the way to being able to work out whether not visually fitting in makes you not socially fit in, in the familial and school environment.

        The fact that that study shows that asian kids, who if you look at the related studies often seem to over-perform, underperform under adoption implies that adoption has skewed things so much that if there is any signal, it's been lost in the noise.
        --
        I know I'm God, because every time I pray to him, I find I'm talking to myself.
    • (Score: 1) by theronb on Wednesday December 03 2014, @03:00PM

      by theronb (2596) on Wednesday December 03 2014, @03:00PM (#122246)

      Interesting that for all the kids, regardless of background or race, IQ went down between ages 7 and 17. Apparently even receiving a "advantaged" upbringing and education makes a child dumber over time.

      • (Score: 2) by metamonkey on Wednesday December 03 2014, @06:18PM

        by metamonkey (3174) on Wednesday December 03 2014, @06:18PM (#122345)

        I'm convinced that babies are born with an IQ of 250. Every time they hit their head on something, they lose a point. By the time they're adults, they're as dumb as the rest of us.

        --
        Okay 3, 2, 1, let's jam.
        • (Score: 2) by etherscythe on Wednesday December 03 2014, @07:51PM

          by etherscythe (937) on Wednesday December 03 2014, @07:51PM (#122373) Journal

          Whereas I posit that kids are born with massive psychoses which they grow out of to some degree. Mostly.

          --
          "Fake News: anything reported outside of my own personally chosen echo chamber"
  • (Score: 2) by naubol on Tuesday December 02 2014, @11:08PM

    by naubol (1918) on Tuesday December 02 2014, @11:08PM (#122045)

    It would have to be controlled for nutrition, environment, etc.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by frojack on Tuesday December 02 2014, @11:22PM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 02 2014, @11:22PM (#122053) Journal

      Merely cataloging such results, let alone posting them would bring hellfire and brimstone down on your head.
      Nobody will do this even though the data is there is SAT scores.

      Some things you simply can not mention. Watson is living proof of that. A masterful scientist, more or less lost to the world due to things he said in a society that pretends to preach tolerance and free speech.

      We are the descendants of the B Arc after all.

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 02 2014, @11:35PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 02 2014, @11:35PM (#122057)

        Previous AC has already disproven your paranoid fantasies by linking to one such study.
        Of course there are other studies from different angles that haven't found differences, but they aren't note worthy.

      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 02 2014, @11:44PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 02 2014, @11:44PM (#122060)

        Some things you simply can not mention.

        No, it is more a case that you shouldn't go out on a limb and speak with authority on issues that you don't know anything about, then be surprised when you're called out for being wrong and/or a jackass. Just because you gained insight into the molecular shape of DNA doesn't mean you know shit about genetics, sociology, intelligence, etc. You can blather on like the racist grandpa that embarrasses everyone at Thanksgiving by what he says, but don't pretend that you have any special insight outside of molecular biology if you didn't do ANY research outside of that field.

        I don't know why you consider him a masterful scientist. Is it simply because of the medal? He was well known in his field for being pretty narrow-minded, and he treated biologists outside of his field like shit because they didn't work on the awesomeness that was the molecule.

        He says he's selling the medal because he needs the money, and he's going to use the money to make philanthropic donations. Basically what he is saying is that he needs money to whitewash his past before he dies. Maybe he can ask Google to respect his right to be forgotten while he's at it.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 03 2014, @12:23AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 03 2014, @12:23AM (#122069)

          You believe in evolution? Just not from the neck up? We are all equal after all, some are even more equal than others!

      • (Score: 2) by moondrake on Wednesday December 03 2014, @10:50AM

        by moondrake (2658) on Wednesday December 03 2014, @10:50AM (#122188)

        Not to argue against your main point, but I find the sentence about Watson silly. He is not a masterful scientist, nor is he lost to the world (and even if he were, he is not really productive anymore).

        What did the guy ever do for it. Ah yes, he came up with the double-helix model for DNA. At least...He claims so. Though the actual experiments where done by Rosalind Franklin, who was, at the time Watson published, aware of the structure herself as it was a rather logical step combining her work with previous knowledge. And Watson himself (did you read his book?) has always claimed Crick was the one with the brains anyway.

        Also..DNA structure...what is it good for anyway? It is not like it influences the genetic info. It is sort of nice to know how the molecule looks like, but it is not very important for all the subsequent work (well, it is important sometimes, but not overly so, certainly not worth of a Nobel).

        Lost to the world...bah..Most Nobel-graduates tour the world to give silly philosophical talks (I saw Watson's one, it was underwhelming). Interesting, but not that important. And they get overpaid jobs and prestigious institutes and committees. Usually they are not really qualified, it just looks good to have a Nobel graduate their. Honestly, we good do with losing a few more of them...

  • (Score: 4, Informative) by zocalo on Tuesday December 02 2014, @11:29PM

    by zocalo (302) on Tuesday December 02 2014, @11:29PM (#122056)
    Heritability of IQ [wikipedia.org]
    Race & Intelligence in the US [wikipedia.org] (Rushton & Jensen in particular)

    Plenty of linked papers and other citations there I looked at when the claims were originally made, but many seem to be posited on using an IQ test as a metric which many consider dubious at best and I'm not going to make any statements on how valid the work might be because I haven't read any of them in depth, but there does seem to be a fair bit of consistency in the findings that backs up the core point of Watson's claim. Fact is that *someone* has to come bottom of any given league, and if the current leagues put Africans there and that was what Watson was expressing, then perhaps he is really just a victim of political correctness and a poor choice of words over a taboo subject (he does long established track record there).

    The deeper question here is how far down the slippery slope of sensitive subjects like this do we want our scientists to go, bearing in mind that they are almost certainly going to have to discuss that subject in quite frank terms as part of their work? Different subsets of the population *do* have different genetics, diet, upbringing and other societal factors that bring problems specific to those differences, Sickle Cell Anaemia for instance, and it's only by researching why that is that we are going to be able to understand the cause of that any maybe do something about it. Some of those issues are almost certainly going to be emotive in our overly politically correct world, particularly when they touch on historical (and not so historical) abuses or are more abstract concepts like intelligence, but if we are not careful scientists are not going to want to work in fields that really do need research to be undertaken for fear of being branded as bigots.
    --
    UNIX? They're not even circumcised! Savages!
    • (Score: 1) by jcm on Tuesday December 02 2014, @11:55PM

      by jcm (4110) on Tuesday December 02 2014, @11:55PM (#122063)

      In fact, IQ is a way to measure our western culture.

      We focus on our ability to solve problems with our brains, so we value our ability to think logically.
      The other cultures value other parameters, like social proximity, which mostly disappeared in our western culture (and that's why people are attached to the fake relationships in Facebook).

      This clearly appears in the way we treat time, with monochronic and polychronic cultures:
      http://mgmtblog.com/?p=60 [mgmtblog.com]

      Some western scientists decided that intelligence (what kind ?) can be measured with logic tests, because it's easy to measure and because they are good at them, since they are clever, after all.
      People who are not interested in these tests are clearly idiots !
      Sadly, some countries like South Korea have put the IQ bar very high, so they are already beating us at this game.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 03 2014, @04:48AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 03 2014, @04:48AM (#122128)

      > Fact is that *someone* has to come bottom of any given league,

      What? It is a huge leap to go from "someone" to "this group of people defined by their skin color."
      Why skin color rather than height or cranium size or blood type or any of a million other characteristics?

      • (Score: 2) by zocalo on Wednesday December 03 2014, @09:32AM

        by zocalo (302) on Wednesday December 03 2014, @09:32AM (#122175)
        It not really a leap so much as a function and natural result of how this *particular* league table was defined in the first place. You could (and people have) just as easily draw up a similar league table based on any other suitable demographic that you care to pick (height, cranium size, blood type...) and look for a correlation with IQ there too, and no doubt those at the lower end of the table would take exception to it as well. The issue here is that the league table in question was based around ethnicity and because blacks came out bottom it is seen as discriminating against blacks and cries of racism abound (no doubt made far worse by the history there) regardless of whether the method and results are demonstrably valid or not.

        Other than perhaps religion (for which similar research [wikipedia.org] has also been done) I can't think of a divisor more likely to prompt an automatic outcry and ostracism on this kind of level without any real kind of consideration of whether or not the statement is, in fact, an accurate, albeit extremely uncomfortable, truth. I doubt very much that this would have even made the news if Watson's comments had been based around some other far less sensitive divisor like blood type, or perhaps even if some other, less victimised, ethnic group had come bottom to the table. That's the slippery slope I mentioned; what is considered politically incorrect is growing by the day, and as it does so more and more topics are going to become taboo, with the risk that we might reach a point where scientists are afraid to work in fields that are crying for study in case they get accused of bigotry.
        --
        UNIX? They're not even circumcised! Savages!
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 04 2014, @06:45PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 04 2014, @06:45PM (#122657)

        Why skin color rather than height or cranium size or blood type or any of a million other characteristics?

        You have a point. But then, why not skin color?

    • (Score: 2) by TheRaven on Wednesday December 03 2014, @10:57AM

      by TheRaven (270) on Wednesday December 03 2014, @10:57AM (#122192) Journal
      The Race and Intelligence wikipedia article has been completely rewritten since I last looked at it and, unfortunately, now misses one of the most important graphs, which plots the distribution of black, white, and asian ethnic groups. The immediate thing that you gain from this is that, even if IQ is a good metric for intelligence and the data doesn't contain any biases, the vast majority of people of any ethnicity are in the area that overlaps all three ethnic groups that they investigated. This means that if you take a random black person and a random white person, it tells you absolutely nothing about their relative intelligence.
      --
      sudo mod me up
      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Thexalon on Wednesday December 03 2014, @03:21PM

        by Thexalon (636) on Wednesday December 03 2014, @03:21PM (#122259)

        This means that if you take a random black person and a random white person, it tells you absolutely nothing about their relative intelligence.

        That's hardly surprising: In just about every field of endeavor, the difference between groupings of humans is dwarfed by differences within that group.

        For example, on average men are faster runners than women, and the fastest men are faster than the fastest women, but the fastest women are faster than the vast majority of men. So even if it is true (and this is very questionable) that those of African descent are less smart than those of European descent on average, folks like Neil Degrasse Tyson are much smarter than your average white guy. And there's a similar variation in, say music performance - Bootsy Collins is probably the best funk bassist of all time, and black performers were on average better at playing funk than white performers, but Alan Gorrie is a far better funk bassist than the vast majority who try.

        The conclusion to draw is that prejudging somebody based on things like gender and race is not just morally wrong, it's factually wrong.

        As far as why African-Americans do so much worse than European- and Asian-Americans in academics, the most likely explanations based on current research have to do with (a) high levels of lead poisoning and other environmental health risks in the areas they tend to live, (b) lower parental income and ability of parents to be involved in teaching, (c) lousy schools compared to their European- and Asian-descended counterparts (schools are nearly as racially separated now as they were before Brown v Board of Education), and (d) being too smart in school can make you a target for lethal violence in a lot of places in the US.

        --
        The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by q.kontinuum on Wednesday December 03 2014, @05:37AM

    by q.kontinuum (532) on Wednesday December 03 2014, @05:37AM (#122139) Journal

    That would be the wrong kind of racism ;-) I hear lots of comments about Asians being awesomely intelligent and to probably supersede western culture in the area of science, and most (western) people I see take it as a serious warning to keep on their toes, instead of feeling threatened by racism. Like with sexist studies about woman allegedly being more empathic, more communicative, creative and whatnot.

    That said, I work in a multicultural environment with colleagues from >50 nations from all continents, men and women (well, not for all those countries both sexes, I assume). I met geniuses, idiots and solid performers from all continents, all ethnic appearances all sexes (well, obviously biological women and men, not sure about trans-gender, hermaphrodites etc. - it usually doesn't come up as a topic in the coffee area, and I don't care too much.). In history, black people, women and many other minorities were treated badly and unfairly, which might not justify to give some of them an unfair advantage now, but does definitely call for a special sense of sensitivity to avoid some unproven blanket-statements, and even when publishing research results. E.g. the mean intelligence of a group might be lower(higher) because of some real retards(geniuses) skewing the results. The median of the intelligence might still be higher(lower). Or, if the variance is higher, the probability to find a genius in a group might be higher even if the mean intelligence is slightly lower.

    For bar-room discussions, these details are never considered and usually studies are interpreted against minorities, overlooking the fact that the specimen of bar-room-philosophers are themselves often not at the top of their ethnic and might often range somewhere below the mean value of the discussed minorities.

    --
    Registered IRC nick on chat.soylentnews.org: qkontinuum
  • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday December 03 2014, @01:14PM

    by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 03 2014, @01:14PM (#122214)

    It's HIGHLY politically incorrect to pretend "The Bell Curve" by Herrnstein and Murray ever existed, much less that it may have been correct in spirit if not detail. I guess I'm getting old because I remember when it was brand new and its had its 20th anniversary of publication this year...

    It is useful outside the race/IQ discussion as all of the attacks against it that I'm aware of fall into various categories of logical fallacies and sophistry. So if you're trying to learn debate "skills" and can ignore the IQ stuff, its extremely educational.

    Its a pretty good book. I got a copy and read it in the 90s. Observations of reality at international relations level since then seem to match the conclusions in the book. For example its no great surprise given the national stats that Scotland and Japan are not in anarchy but Somali just can't form a stable nation-state.