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A Peek at Watson's Family Tree

on December 22, 2007
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The Times: “DNA pioneer James Watson is blacker than he thought In one of the most ironic science stories in recent memory (if not of all time!), the Caucasian scientist who lamented what he implied as lower African intelligence may himself actually be, at least partly, black!

James Watson, part of the famous Watson-and-Crick team that discovered the double-helix structure of DNA a half-century ago, has been known to put his foot in his mouth before. Just two months back, Watson ignited a firestorm that ultimately resulted, among other things, in his effective ouster from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. The 79-year-old Nobel Prize winner had commented (as we described in the October 20, 2007, News to Note) that:

Differences in skin color are, well, only skin deep!

his pessimism about African progress is 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.” Watson added that although he hopes intelligence is evenly distributed across racial groups, “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.”

Watson later apologized for his comments. Meanwhile, an Icelandic genomics company, deCODE genetics, was conducting an analysis of Watson’s DNA. The surprising result? Sixteen percent of the genetic makeup of Watson, a person of palpable pallor, likely came from a black ancestor.

This result, while surprising to those not familiar with how little the word race ultimately means, would confirm what Answers in Genesis has been saying all along: despite our differing skin, hair, and eye colors (and so forth), we are all ultimately of one blood (Acts 17:26), descended from one man and woman, with skin color a superficial phenotype, not a definitive distinction.

However, some point out the difficulty of even understanding the genetic–race link in the first place. Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at University of Pennsylvania, explains that “our ordinary racial categories do not have much scientific meaning. They are social and cultural creation.” Caplan adds that “[genetic] sampling is far from complete so most genetic analysis for complex traits and behaviors including race is based on incomplete data.”

All the more reason, then, for remembering that differences in skin color are, well, only skin deep! On the inside, despite our differences, we are all made in the image of God.


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