Friday, October 19, 2007


Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the flagship that James Watson took charge of and steered for more than 40 years, has now disowned him. I cannot but help feel sad at this development, not because it is unfair to Watson (what does he have to lose at this point really?) but simply because it had to end this way. Watson on his part has apologised and is said to be baffled at how people could react to his comments this way. Unfortunately this is not a valid apology. Again, even giving him the benefit of doubt, he of all people must have known that people most probably would take the comments the way they did. The comments would smack of racism to any reasonable thinking person.

Nigel Hawkes has a perceptive short commentary on race and intelligence. He makes the important point that while IQ differences indeed exist between people, they are first of all highly disputed and unreliable, and more importantly do not say anything about individual worth. There is a pretty big difference between simply acknowledging that differences in abilities do exist among individuals (which is a given) and attributing certain difference to entire peoples. Even scientifically proving that all Indians score less by 15 points than Japanese on some internationally accepted IQ test does not prove that I as a person won't be as "smart" in life as a Japanese person. When someone claims that all Africans have less IQ, it is as much a claim about individuals as it is about race, a contention that is totally unfounded. His last statements are especially noteworthy.
"All people deserve equal treatment. But that is not quite the same as saying they are all equal. The error comes in taking a group difference, which may or may not be real, and using it to judge the worth of individuals. That is racism."

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Blogger Hirak said...

It occurred to me that one the best things you can do after winning the Nobel Prize is die, or if that does not work to shoot yourself. That will guarantee you immortality for one, and ensure you don't become senile and make some outrageous comments like Mr. Watson.

11:59 AM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

Haha...that's a good one

9:44 AM  

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