Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Africans are less intelligent than Westerners, says DNA pioneer:
The 79-year-old geneticist reopened the explosive debate about race and science in a newspaper interview in which he said Western policies towards African countries were wrongly based on an assumption that black people were as clever as their white counterparts when "testing" suggested the contrary. He claimed genes responsible for creating differences in human intelligence could be found within a decade.
1) This isn't surprising coming from Watson. He has a long track record (one story from someone who has done research at Cold Harbor is just that, but many is a trend).
2) I'll be interested in seeing what he says in the book. I hope it is a bit more nuanced, seeing as not everyone in the First World is the same race. There are some black and brown people who are citizens of Western nations after all! Does his "our" include us? Who exactly is we Dr. Watson?
3) There are sensitive topics that are best spoken of clinically, bandying about anecdotes about black employees really won't cut it. That's low hanging fruit for Steve Rose. Seriously.
4) That being said, Watson is not a racialist, just as W.D. Hamilton was not racialist. He's just really blunt (or stupid or off his meds depending on how you look at it) and he is offering his opinion on what he believes to be the most parsimonious explanation for the variation he sees in the world out there. Is he wrong? Is he too much of a geneticist so that there is always nail ready for his hammer? Perhaps. I've said as much about W.D. Hamilton. Nevertheless, Watson's views aren't that exceptional. There are many other biologists who would view Watson's evaluation of the issues in regards to intergroup differences as reasonable, whether they agree with him or not. Not because they have a particular racialist impulses, but because evolutionary biology implies the plausibility of human variation on a host of traits. Including behavioral and cognitive traits.
5) A snip from the article:
Steven Rose, a professor of biological sciences at the Open University and a founder member of the Society for Social Responsibility in Science, said: "This is Watson at his most scandalous. He has said similar things about women before but I have never heard him get into this racist terrain. If he knew the literature in the subject he would know he was out of his depth scientifically, quite apart from socially and politically."
Ah, alas, the time for show trials is over comrade Rose. Now, here is something to repeat five times before breakfast: legal equality is not contingent upon biological equality, is does not necessarily imply ought and natural does not necessarily imply good. These are old lessons, centuries old, but it maybe that we have to learn these simple lessons again in the interests of a liberal order. What we hold to be good, true and right is not good, true and right because the world is as it is, but because it is what we wish it to be. And for us to most efficiently attain what we wish we must wrestle what what is. Live not for the fashions of the day, honor the timeless truths of nature.
Addendum: Watson's new book is titled Avoid Boring People. Well, at least he's trying to contribute to the trend he's promoting.