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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: 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 [] 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?