Friday, 22 February, 2019


Pioneering DNA scientist loses titles after claims over race

What constitutes racism READ MOREWhy racism is so hard to define and even harder to understand
Kristine Garrett | 14 January, 2019, 22:54

Nobel Prize-winning DNA scientist James Watson has been stripped of several honorary titles by the laboratory he once headed over his views about intelligence and race.

While Dr Watson also said he hoped everyone was equal, he added: "People who have to deal with black employees find this is not true". However, the move by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory was seemingly one of the final nails in the coffin of Watson's credibility, relevance and overall career, which has all but hit rock bottom.

Watson rose to worldwide scientific fame in 1953 after helping discover DNA's double helix structure with fellow geneticists Maurice Wilkins and Francis Crick. "The Laboratory condemns the misuse of science to justify prejudice", the laboratory said in a statement Friday.

In an interview aired on USA television earlier this month, James Watson - who won the Nobel in 1962 for his role in discovering DNA's double helix structure - said genes were responsible for a difference between black and white people on IQ tests.

Despite almost half a century service to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), Watson, a world-renowned geneticist, lost all of his honorary titles of Chancellor Emeritus, Oliver R. Grace Professor Emeritus and Honorary Trustee, for refusing to retract his own scientific conclusions.

"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", the scientist was quoted as saying in a recently previewed PBS documentary, titled American Masters: Decoding Watson.

In the article, the geneticist said he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because he believed intelligence level of the native population was inherently lower than that of Europeans - due to genetics.

Aside from his racist views on Black people, Watson has been accused of being anti-Semitic and homophobic.

The research centre subsequently revoked three titles - chancellor emeritus, Oliver R Grace Professor Emeritus, and honorary trustee.

In 1997 he told the Sunday Telegraph that a woman should be allowed to abort a child for any reason, including for homosexuality if a gene could be found that determined it. Watson, Crick and another British scientist, Maurice Wilkins, won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1962.

"I believe there is very broad support among the faculty for the multiple steps that CSHL is taking in response to Watson's horrific comments", CSHL biologist Justin Kinney told STAT.

In an interview with the news agency, his son Rufus said Dr Watson's statements "might make him out to be a bigot and discriminatory" but that was not true.

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