James Watson, the attention whore

James WatsonJames Watson said that some part of intelligence may be genetically determined, and, in support of this, says that there are differences which break down among racial lines. I haven’t seen the data, so I can’t comment on that point, but neither have the reporters. That doesn’t stop them from running to the presses with a dynamite headline like “Watson says black people are stupid”. (Did you pick up on how excited the reporter was to get this interview?)I also find it hard to believe that a smart fella like Watson, who has been previously misquoted as saying things like “people should abort their gay children”, didn’t realize that this would be sensationalized. So, based on this, I’d like to offer to him the Attention Whore Lifetime Achievement Merit Badge. Jim, please pick it up to the left of this post, thank you.

Now, I don’t particularly like painting a target on my head, but I dislike even more the implicit suggestion that there is no reason anyone would study the genetic basis of intelligence unless he was trying to push a racist agenda. I don’t like the fact that even seeming to defend him is enough evidence to brand one a “hidden” racist in the eyes of the media. It’s implicit censorship of the idea that maybe people are actually different on a genetic level, and says more about the hidden agenda or beliefs of the people who replace “different” with “better” than it does about the researcher who uncovers those differences. Those who wish to believe that everyone is identical on a genetic level should avoid at all costs having a conversation with Watson’s schizophrenic son. I think having a son with a mental disorder gives you an excellent reason to want to study the genetics of mental development. To figure out what happened to his son is one of the main reasons the Genome project was started, so one would have to be fairly heartless to imply that Watson instead has a racist agenda.

If you want to read more about this, start here:
Here’s Watson’s interview, here’s Watson’s statement, here’s some data on IQ, race, and socioeconomic status, and here’s a book for you to read.

About Mr. Gunn

Science, Scholarly Communication, and Mendeley

19. October 2007 by Mr. Gunn
Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 3 comments

Comments (3)

  1. Well i am not sure if Watson is an attention whore, however i would like to note that Scientists apart from their research responsibilities share a significant amount of Social responsibility also.Which broadly means that the way a scientist presents an idea or an opinion to the public should be well framed.Infact a few issues back The Scientist magazine ran an interesting article on the same idea.

  2. In terms of framing, this was about as bad as it gets. Let’s hope people remember that he has a history of saying crazy things.

  3. This guy, at a talk at U of T(oronto), claimed something along the lines of he’ll one day be able to genetically engineer undertakers that don’t cry. I’ve read of scientists funded by white supremest organizations that are more responsible about their public interpretation of data (I think it was the same guy who came up with the smaller dick, more harsh climate/more intelligence required theory).

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