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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: 3, Interesting) by bradley13 on Wednesday December 03 2014, @08:29AM

    by bradley13 (3053) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 03 2014, @08:29AM (#122168) Homepage Journal

    What James Watson actually said, was that he was pessimistic about prospects in 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." He is referring to numerous studies that have shown differences in "IQ" or "g"; the studies are pretty much undisputed, and it's a shame that one cannot discuss this openly in polite company. The fact is: most of Africa is a mess; decades of aid programs have largely failed at producing long-term beneficial change.. If cognitive differences are a possible reason, then denying this reality is just not helpful.

    The real question is: why are cognitive differences present? They could be genetic, in which case we need to change our approach to helping Africa. They could be due to nutrition or disease, in which case the problem is eminently fixable. Either way, researchers are never going to investigate the cause as long as admitting the problem itself is equivalent to career suicide.

    If even a Nobel Laureate is not allowed such a gentle criticism of the social policies directed at Africa, what hope do ordinary mortals have?

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 03 2014, @02:39PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 03 2014, @02:39PM (#122237)

    The fact is: most of Africa is a mess; decades of aid programs have largely failed at producing long-term beneficial change..

    That's not true, the aid programs were effective and efficient in producing beneficial change. The benefits just happen to go someplace else, outside Africa and the change stays in Africa. And changes always bring resentment and people willing to fight change. (Try replacing and old program some administrative personnel is working with with something new that e.g. reduces their paper work)

    To be on topic and say something politically incorrect: I think not helping Africa will be the most efficient and most short-term and long-term effective we can do. The population size will simply move back to the size the lands can support. (That a lot of people die in that process is something we don't like, but then again, I thought we didn't like routinely bombing children and civilians either)

  • (Score: 2) by metamonkey on Wednesday December 03 2014, @06:25PM

    by metamonkey (3174) on Wednesday December 03 2014, @06:25PM (#122350)

    It's a problem with Africans, not black people. I don't think there's anything inherent to being black that leads to lower intelligence. But, we are the product of the genetic makeup of our ancestors.

    The most technologically advanced regions are those farthest from Africa. Go all the way east to the Pacific Ocean and you've got Japan. Go all the way west and you're in Silicon Valley. Africa, the birthplace of civilization is the least civilized. I don't think it's far-fetched to say it's because modern-day Africans are the descendants of people who, for 10,000 years, looked around and said, "this is fine" and were not curious enough about the world to leave and go explore it. Curiosity of the hallmark of intelligence.

    So what do you think is the reason Africa never developed technological civilization after Egypt? It can't be explained away with colonialism, as that was only in the past few hundred years. Africa had a huge head start on civilization. If they'd developed a technological civilization first, they'd have been the colonizers and conquerers. Vast, fertile land rich in natural resources. Livable climate. Why is it in the shape it is today?

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    • (Score: 1) by t-3 on Thursday December 04 2014, @01:58AM

      by t-3 (4907) on Thursday December 04 2014, @01:58AM (#122442) Journal

      Africa never needed to invent the technology or the internally competitive economic and social structures that arose in Europe. Struggling to survive has been the main driver of innovation throughout history. If you don't need to struggle, you don't need to innovate.

      • (Score: 2) by metamonkey on Thursday December 04 2014, @05:51PM

        by metamonkey (3174) on Thursday December 04 2014, @05:51PM (#122632)

        What about comfort? And what makes you think they didn't struggle to survive? Disease, lion attacks, warring tribes. They had tribal conflict, and war spurns innovation like nothing else.

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        • (Score: 1) by t-3 on Sunday December 07 2014, @05:39AM

          by t-3 (4907) on Sunday December 07 2014, @05:39AM (#123399) Journal

          They didn't have to fight the environment anywhere near as much as Europeans did. Disease, animals, and war are everywhere. Snow is not. Europe also has more limited resources and historically more competition for them.