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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 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"
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