James D. Watson, cantankerous Nobel prize winner, proves that no cow is too sacred. Even Lord Jim couldn’t withstand the furore over his latest round of bigoted comments in the Sunday Times magazine on Oct 14th:
He 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”, and I know that this “hot potato” is going to be difficult to address. His hope is that everyone is equal, but he counters that “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”. He says that you should not discriminate on the basis of colour, because “there are many people of colour who are very talented, but don’t promote them when they haven’t succeeded at the lower level”. He writes that “there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so”.
I had been waiting to see whether he would have been able to weather this storm, although his suspension from active duty at CSHL on Oct 18th didn’t bode well. There is a fine line between having the courage to drag out sensitive topics so we can look at them, and being a bigot. Apparently, this time Jim was caught on the wrong side of that line once too often.