Scientists & Racism ; Watson, foot-in-mouth again !!!

Ohh, Nobel Laureate Dr Watson at a controversy yet again !! This time for a seemingly racist comment by Watson published in Sunday Times [hat tip : Abi]

“[James Watson] says that he is “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”

In the interview, he said he hoped everyone was equal, but
added: "People who have to deal with black employees find this not true."

Do you remember his legendary observation "dark-skinned people have stronger libidos"

I know there are some subtle things which are 'politically incorrect' and get resistance in the name of racism. But what evidence he has to support his observation before making such a statement. Does he think it is a tea time gossip with ‘Sunday Times’ to make the interview spiceier? (Just because they publish it under 'entertainment section' [sic] :) )

Dr Watson has a serious foot-in-mouth disease. He reportedly apologized later assessing the severity. But the damage was done. It was picked up by media and blogs. Now take a look at this

Nobel Prize winner Dr James Watson was this week banned today from speaking at London's Science Museum after reportedly saying black people were less intelligent than whites.

That is enough for a Nobel laureate….

Now something about another recent racism controversy by some ‘unknown’ scientists from Italy… This may seem more ridiculous. But at least they have tried to give some explanations for it (!!!?)

Federica Mafrica and Vincenzo Fodale "Down subjects and Oriental population share several specific attitudes and characteristics" Medical Hypotheses Volume 69, Issue 2, 2007, Pages 438-440

Down’s syndrome is characterized not only by a typical “habitus”, mental retardation of variable gravity and several alterations of the cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrenteric and immunitary system, but also by specific attitudes and characteristics that are in common with the Oriental population. Starting from the origin of the term mongolism, replaced with other terms such as Trisomy 21, Down’s syndrome, and anomaly of Down because of the racist use made in the last century, we propose, in the light of modern knowledge about the heredity of features, a reflection on those aspects and attitudes which highlight a very particular twinning between a Down person and Asiatic peoples.

I won’t blog much about it. This has been picked by Ben Goldacre of ‘Bad Science’ fame and blogged about nicely in his blog. Please go through it.

One of the comments (by John Pettigrew) in Ben’s article sums up the paper.
“It’s not even close to science - it’s just the authors saying “look, people with Down’s syndrome look like Mongols, and even stand and sit like them.”

And what do you say about this?

“Mind the gap…in intelligence: Re-examining the relationship between inequality and health” Kanazawa, Satoshi … British Journal of Health Psychology, Volume 11, Number 4, November 2006 , pp. 623-642(20)

People in countries with a large gap between the rich and poor have short life expectancies, not because of the economic inequality and lack of resources, but rather because they are unintelligent. (As blogged at Research digest blog of BPS)

I respect the “Medical Hypotheses” journal as such (being a contributor once :) ). I respect the founder Dr David Horrobin, and way he started this high impact journal. But some papers should be brought under scanner and discussed. That goes with the journal’s manifesto too.

Medical Hypotheses is a forum for ideas in medicine and related biomedical sciences. It will publish interesting and important theoretical papers that foster the diversity and debate upon which the scientific process thrives

Seeji, Pharm House


  1. Anonymous says

    Boy....... did you wait for a second and think before you jumped on the "anti-racism" bandwagon? Facts, while unpleasent and hurtful to some, are still facts........ and facts, by their very nature, are always truths. The question here is whether all truths need to be told. Are there truths that are better off concealed? These questions are of a very personal nature, and Dr. Watson thinks they need not be concealed. Anyway, we don't really know if what Watson said is true.. What say Whatson? eh....

    Seeji says

    @ Anonymous

    Yeah, not one second…I waited for many seconds before I jumped to “anti-racism” [sic] bandwagon. Because I blogged the story on the second day. Though you sound criticizing my post you have correctly mentioned “……The question here is whether all truths need to be told. Are there truths that are better off concealed?.....”. That was the essence of my posting.

    Though I don’t know if at all it is a truth, I am pretty sure, that is something one need to conceal, especially so when your words carry a significance in society. I won’t mind if his chauffer, or cook or even you (the anonymous) talked about it.

    And again, we don’t know if it is a truth. No conclusive evidence. Secondly, what is this ‘Intelligence’ he talks about? Is it the ‘numbers’ [sic] in the IQ tests designed by western population? Or the capacity to adapt to policies and circumstances created by so-called developed world? Africans do have a rich culture of their own . What do u think? Are we talking about Down’s here?

    Watson is perfectly justified in his concept. “One can not decide and force social policies on Africans, which are designed to western population” …. But not because they are ‘less intelligent’, but because, there are vast differences in the culture and the upbringing.

    Hope to see you again in the comments section.