James Watson is a Nobel Prize-winning geneticist. But this past week he let his personal, apparently deeply racist views, destroy his achievements in science.
He told The Sunday Times (London,UK) that he was not optimistic about Africa's prospects 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."
While this statement may seem to have the force of his scientific experience, he then added a comment he could not have tested in the laboratory: "People who have to deal with Black employees find this [all people being equal] not true."
In other words, he clearly mixed his personal animosities toward people of African descent with a distortion of the scientific record.
Watson's comments earned the ire of many of his colleagues. The people who run the laboratory where Watson works, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, said they "vehemently disagree with these statements and are bewildered and saddened if he indeed made such comments."
Watson's colleagues went further to deny that their facility "does not engage in any research that could even form the basis of the statements attributed to Dr. Watson."
Another British newspaper, the Independent, cataloged a number of comments by Watson implying racist and homophobic sentiments. In one comment, Watson seemed to say that aborting fetuses discovered to have genetic predispositions for homosexuality should be acceptable.
This week, Henry Kelly, president of the Federation of American Scientists, described Watson's comments about race as dishonorable and as reflecting and promoting "personal prejudices that are racist, vicious and unsupported by science."
“While we honor the extraordinary contributions that Dr. Watson has made to science in the past, his comments show that he has lost his way. He has failed us in the worst possible way,” said Kelly in a press release. “It is a sad and revolting way to end a remarkable career.”
In an era when nooses and the lynch-law they represent are aimed at African Americans, a practice that is spreading from Jena, Louisiana to New York City, and which has still gone unremarked upon by George W. Bush, Watson's outrageously vile comments only serve to promote violence and terror.