Tuesday, January 02, 2007

James Watson: Eugenicist and Potential Anti-Semite

I have noticed a weird trend: When somebody has been a great scientist, for some reason we assume their ideas on morality should be given as much respect as their scientific acumen. But science and morality lie in two different human spheres. Indeed, science can't tell us right from wrong, which may be why some of the most notable scientist-philosophers espouse crassly destructive moral philosophies. Case in point: Nobel Laureate James Watson, co-discoverer of the DNA double helix. Almost every time the curmudgeon opens his mouth--as in this January 07 Esquire interview--he reveals a stunted moral center. Indeed, based on the interview, Watson reveals himself to be a eugenicist and, it would seem, something of an anti-Semite:

"Francis Crick said we should pay poor people not to have children. I think now we're in a terrible situation where we pay the rich people to have children. If there is any correlation between success and genes, IQ will fall if the successful don't have children. These are self-obvious facts." This is right out of Francis Galton's old eugenics play book, with a strong whiff of social Darwinism thrown in. It is also wrong. Some of our greatest or most successful people were born into poor families. Abraham Lincoln's father was a subsistence farmer. Bill Clinton's mother was so poor that the future president had to stay with relatives while she sought an education. The list could go on and on. Meanwhile, being born into a rich and successful family often doesn't translate into exhibiting successful characteristics--as many of John Adams' progeny demonstrated.

"The cost of DNA sequencing is going to change the world much faster than I would have thought. We can resequence someone now for $150,000. Can you reach the $1,000 genome? I'm skeptical of that. But just $15,000 would change the world. You'd do a thousand Greeks and a thousand Swedes and find out what's different about them. Anytime a child has problems school or something where you worry something is wrong, you'll do a DNA diagnosis." This sounds terribly threatening and points toward the potentiality of the powerful using genetic engineering or therapy to impose a stultifying human uniformity and behavioral control on society.

"Should you be allowed to make an anti-Semitic remark? Yes, because some anti-Semitism is justified." Remarks should not be outlawed, but anti-Semitism is never justified. Can you imagine the outcry in the media if someone who is not one of their darlings had said something like that?

"For all my life, America was the place to be. And we somehow continue to be the place where there are real opportunities change the world for the better." That's because America rejects the kind of ideas espoused by James Watson.


At January 02, 2007 , Blogger Robert B said...

I suppose.
Unless the web upload of this article somehow got screwed up, James Watson's thoughts seemed very disjointed. It's not clear whether or what questions were asked by the supposed interviewer and he never seems to complete a thought.

I thought Esquire had journalistic professionalism. This seems like an idle MySpace post after a hard New Years evening.

At January 02, 2007 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

robert b: It was a weird way to do it. But unless they took tremendous liberties as to context, it seems that Watson is deserving of pronounced criticism. His eugenics views are well known. The anti-Semitism remark is new in my experience of him. If there is a correction or a way to make it seem less egregious than it appears, I welcome the information and will display it prominently.

At January 02, 2007 , Blogger T E Fine said...

Feh. Anytime someone starts spouting anti-Semitic remarks, I have the urge to point out you don't find many Jews on welfare, even the poor ones.

Francis Crick: A brilliant scientist who made many contributions to the field of genetics. And proposed that life originated in space. From an advanced civilization. That sent genetic material to Earth. Intentionally.


As for paying poor people not to breed and rich people to breed, I would think that a man smart enough to co-discover DNA's double helix would know that unless you encourage great amounts of cross-cluture and cross "racial" breeding, you're going to end up with a stunted society. Only when genetics from different groups that have been isolated get blended do you have happier, healthier babies. Humanity needs both periods of isolation and periods of combination to improve our genetic quality (done so NATURALLY, I might add), and right now, *because* we are a heterogeneous society, America is poised to create the biggest batch of genetically superior children.

By which I mean genetically healthier. So-called "interracial" couples are producing happy, healthy babies who will be great contributors to society, be they stay-at-home moms, great baseball players, brilliant scientists, or just really sweet guys who live next door.

If there was an error in the way everything was reported, then I will stand down, but if this is really how the interview went, then I must say, this man is an idiot.

Love and kisses, Tabs

At January 02, 2007 , Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

I can't figure out the anti-Semitism thing, because he goes on about how super-intelligent Ashkenazi Jews are. I thought he wanted more intelligent people. ?? Can't figure that out. Is he saying it's somehow unfair that they should be more intelligent, or what? But otherwise he sounds like the appeal to "fairness" doesn't move him.

Maybe Jews are right to be uneasy when people praise them. They always think it's somehow next-door to anti-Semitism. I always thought that was paranoid, but perhaps Watson is an example of the phenomenon.

At January 03, 2007 , Blogger Bernhardt Varenius said...

Wesley: "When somebody has been a great scientist, for some reason we assume their ideas on morality should be given as much respect as their scientific acumen."

I suspect it's because we tend to mistakenly assume that intelligence equates with wisdom. If you are highly intelligent you certainly have less of an excuse for being a fool, but there's no guarantee you will be the slightest bit wiser than anyone else. In fact, I'd claim scientists and academics in general (and I speak as one) are *less* likely to be wise than others, given that they tend to inhabit intellectual hothouses and lack the necessary humility for gaining wisdom.

At January 03, 2007 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

Isn't there a Woody Allen line where he urges an "intellectual" to hang out with some stupid people for a change?

At October 28, 2007 , Blogger TyroneEnright said...

None can post a rigourous rebuttal of Watson, or Crick or Dawkins for that matter. Somehow you all know better than people who are your infinte superiors in genetics. Perhaps you might examine the basis of your knowledge, material you have absorbed from Mainstream media, from those with a political row to how... No one has disproven a word, they merely rant on about how much they hate the message.

At December 04, 2007 , Blogger Denis Jones said...

When will this nonesense stop,the words "anti-Semitism" and "anti-Semitic" are, in fact, semantic misnomers. Jews constitute no more than 10 percent of the world's Semites. The overwhelming majority of Semites are Arabs.

I suggest that people read Whi is a Semite? and see how you have been duped.


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