For James Watson, the Price Was Exile. At 90, the Nobel winner still thinks that black people are born intellectually inferior to whites
The NYT article below shows how powerful political correctness can be. James Watson has been severely sanctioned for saying in public little more than what most psychometricians are agreed on -- that the average black IQ is much lower than white IQ and that the difference is persistent -- nothing seems able to change it. The American Psychological Association is generally Left-leaning but it is the world's most prestigious body of academic psychologists. And even they (under the chairmanship of Ulric Neisser) have had to concede a large and persistent gap in black vs. white average IQ.
It is true that very few psychometricians will attribute the persistence of the black/white gap to genetics. It would be career death for them if they did, as it was for Watson. Yet they cheerfully attribute differences between white individuals to genetics. There is powerful evidence of that. So why is a particular group difference not also genetic? Groups are made up of individuals and group scores are the sum of individual scores.
The only way out of that inference would be to say that blacks are a different species, or at least fundamentally different genetically -- that something produced by genes in whites is not produced by genes in blacks. Yet that denies the humanity of blacks. It is saying that their brains are different in how they function. That, it seems to me, is REALLY racist. It is an attempt to deny racial differences that ends up proclaiming racial differences. If we respect the humanity of blacks we have to say that the causes of IQ variation are the same in blacks and whites. You have to say that the black/white gap is persistent because it is genetic.
But we can go beyond that. The question is really the validity of IQ scores among blacks. Do they measure what we think they measure? Do they measure the same things that they measure among whites? And the answer is very clear. From their average IQ score we would expect blacks to be at the bottom of every heap where anything intellectual is remotely involved. We would expect them to be economically unsuccessful (poor), mired in crime and barely educable. And they are. The tests are valid among blacks.
The education situation is particularly clear. The large gap between black and white educational attainment has been loudly bewailed by all concerned for many years. Leftist educators have turned themselves inside out trying to change it. But nothing does. It persists virtually unchanged year after year. It alone is graphic testimony to inborn lesser black intellectual competence. No talk of IQ is really needed.
But it is exactly what we would predict from black IQ scores. It is a large gap that mirrors a large IQ gap. It is exactly what we would expect from the black difference being a genetic given. IQ in blacks works the same way as it does in whites. So if it is genetically determined in whites it must be genetically determined among blacks. Some whites are born dumb. Many blacks are born dumb
It has been more than a decade since James D. Watson, a founder of modern genetics, landed in a kind of professional exile by suggesting that black people are intrinsically less intelligent than whites.
In 2007, Dr. Watson, who shared a 1962 Nobel Prize for describing the double-helix structure of DNA, told a British journalist that he was “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.”
Moreover, he added, although he wished everyone were equal, “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.”
Dr. Watson’s comments reverberated around the world, and he was forced to retire from his job as chancellor of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, although he retains an office there.
He apologized publicly and “unreservedly” and in later interviews he sometimes suggested that he had been playing the provocateur — his trademark role — or had not understood that his comments would be made public.
Ever since, Dr. Watson, 90, has been largely absent from the public eye. His speaking invitations evaporated. In 2014, he became the first living Nobelist to sell his medal, citing a depleted income from having been designated a “nonperson.”
But his remarks have lingered. They have been invoked to support white supremacist views, and scientists routinely excoriate Dr. Watson when his name surfaces on social media.
Eric Lander, the director of the Broad Institute of M.I.T. and Harvard, elicited an outcry last spring with a toast he made to Dr. Watson’s involvement in the early days of the Human Genome Project. Dr. Lander quickly apologized.
“I reject his views as despicable” Dr. Lander wrote to Broad scientists. “They have no place in science, which must welcome everyone. I was wrong to toast, and I’m sorry.”
And yet, offered the chance recently to recast a tarnished legacy, Dr. Watson has chosen to reaffirm it, this time on camera. In a new documentary, “American Masters: Decoding Watson” to be broadcast on PBS on Wednesday night, he is asked whether his views about the relationship between race and intelligence have changed.
“No” Dr. Watson said. “Not at all. I would like for them to have changed, that there be new knowledge that says that your nurture is much more important than nature. But I haven’t seen any knowledge. And there’s a difference on the average between blacks and whites on I.Q. tests. I would say the difference is, it’s genetic.”
Dr. Watson adds that he takes no pleasure in “the difference between blacks and whites” and wishes it didn’t exist. “It’s awful, just like it’s awful for schizophrenics” he says. (Doctors diagnosed schizophrenia in his son Rufus when he was in his teens.) Dr. Watson continues, “If the difference exists, we have to ask ourselves, how can we try and make it better?”
Dr. Watson’s remarks may well ignite another firestorm of criticism. At the very least, they will pose a challenge for historians when they take the measure of the man: How should such fundamentally unsound views be weighed against his extraordinary scientific contributions?
In response to questions from The Times, Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, said that most experts on intelligence “consider any blackwhite differences in I.Q. testing to arise primarily from environmental, not genetic, differences.” Dr. Collins said he was unaware of any credible research on which Dr. Watson’s “profoundly unfortunate” statement would be based.
“It is disappointing that someone who made such groundbreaking contributions to science” Dr. Collins added, “is perpetuating such scientifically unsupported and hurtful beliefs.”
Dr. Watson is unable to respond, according to family members. He made his latest remarks last June, during the last of six interviews with Mark Mannucci, the film’s producer and director.
But in October Dr. Watson was hospitalized after a car accident, and he has not been able to leave medical care. Some scientists said that Dr. Watson’s recent remarks are noteworthy less because they are his than because they signify misconceptions that may be on the rise, even among scientists, as ingrained racial biases collide with powerful advances in genetics that are enabling researchers to better explore the genetic underpinnings of behavior and cognition.
“It’s not an old story of an old guy with old views” said Andrea Morris, the director of career development at Rockefeller University, who served as a scientific consultant for the film. Dr. Morris said that, as an African- American scientist, “I would like to think that he has the minority view on who can do science and what a scientist should look like. But to me, it feels very current.”
David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard, has argued that new techniques for studying DNA show that some human populations were geographically separated for long enough that they could plausibly have evolved average genetic differences in cognition and behavior.
But in his recent book, “Who We Are and How We Got Here” he explicitly repudiates Dr. Watson’s presumption that such differences would “correspond to longstanding popular stereotypes” as “essentially guaranteed to be wrong.”
Even Robert Plomin, a prominent behavioral geneticist who argues that nature decisively trumps nurture when it comes to individuals, rejects speculation about average racial differences.
“There are powerful methods for studying the genetic and environmental origins of individual differences, but not for studying the causes of average differences between groups” Dr. Plomin he writes in an afterword to be published this spring in the paperback edition of his book “Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are.”