James Watson, one of three scientists awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1962 for helping discover the structure of DNA,1 created considerable controversy by telling London’s Sunday Times that 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 added that although he hopes intelligence is evenly distributed across racial groups, “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.”
Calling his assertion a “hot potato,” Watson further explained that
[T]here 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.
Despite this, Watson made clear that he rejects discrimination against blacks, instead suggesting that “there are many people of color who are very talented, but don’t promote them when they haven’t succeeded at the lower level.”
Other scientists, such as professor of biological sciences Steven Rose of the Open University, were quick to repudiate Watson’s comments:
This is Watson at his most scandalous. If he knew the literature in the subject, he would know he was out of his depth scientifically, quite apart from socially and politically.
Watson, a self-proclaimed atheistic secular humanist, is no stranger to controversy. In 2003 he told London’s Telegraph that “Every time you understand something, religion becomes less likely.”
What is perhaps most notable is that despite the flak from other scientists, Watson is being entirely true to his atheistic, Darwinist beliefs. Basing his claim on empirical evidence (which, we’ll note, is neither uniform nor conclusive, nor does it conform fully to standards of scientific experimentation) as well as the presupposition of evolution, Watson has concluded that there is no reason to assume all “races” have evolved the same level of intelligence. Given an evolutionist understanding of human history, this idea (however unlikable to most people) is no less “scientific” than many other hypotheses. What’s more, the idea has fueled racism, especially in the early twentieth century, when the indigenous inhabitants of many continents, including Africa, were mistreated under the banner that they were less evolved.
The Bible provides a starkly different—and far more positive—view on the “races.” For a starter, the Bible tells us that all people are of one blood, descended from Adam through Noah. The confusion and dispersion at Babel, described in Genesis, caused people to move away from another, which eventually led to the skin-deep differences we encounter today due to environmental adaptation. For an explanation of what the Bible says about how the “races” came about, see “Interracial Marriage”
On Friday, Watson clarified and apologized for his comments after he was suspended from his duties at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York.
On Friday, Watson clarified and apologized for his comments after he was suspended from his duties at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. Apologizing, Watson explained:
I can certainly understand why people, reading those words, have reacted in the ways they have. To all those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologise unreservedly. That is not what I meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no scientific basis for such a belief.
Watson further clarified his position in comments published in the Independent:
We do not yet adequately understand the way in which the different environments in the world have selected over time the genes which determine our capacity to do different things. The overwhelming desire of society today is to assume that equal powers of reason are a universal heritage of humanity.
It may well be. But simply wanting this to be the case is not enough. This is not science. To question this is not to give in to racism. This is not a discussion about superiority or inferiority, it is about seeking to understand differences, about why some of us are great musicians and others great engineers.
Concluding, the BBC article on the apology notes that “[p]eople from different racial groups can be more genetically similar than individuals within the same group”—something Answers in Genesis has long emphasized as well. Two Caucasians may, for example, have far less genetically in common than a Caucasian and an African (although all three are overwhelmingly similar, genetically speaking!). This goes right along with the Bible’s explanation for the origin of people groups.
AiG–U.K.’s Paul Taylor also commented on this story on Friday. You can read his comments in “DNA Pioneer in Evolutionary Racism Storm.”
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