Wednesday, October 17, 2007

James Watson in Hot Water for Racism

Nobel Laureate James Watson is an out-and-out eugenicist who has urged that genetic engineering be used, for example, to rid the world of stupid people, and said that "some anti-Semitism is justified." None of his eugenicist comments put him in bad odor with the science crowd, but now he has stepped in it by making what sure appears to be racist comments. From the story:

DNA pioneer Dr Watson, who discovered the double helix with Briton Francis Crick, has been roundly condemned for saying he was "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"... Dr Watson has courted controversy before, saying darker-skinned people have a higher sex drive and that women should hypothetically have the right to abort fetuses that "may have a tendency to become homosexual."
The man may have been a brilliant scientist in his day, but as I have written previously, that is no reason to give Watson's moral philosophizing any respect. Indeed, the time has come to acknowledge that whatever he once was, Watson has devolved into a mere crank.



At October 17, 2007 , Blogger MarkH said...

Agreed, he's become cranky in his old age.

But I don't think scientists agreed with his eugenicist ideas, anti-semitism, male chauvinism, rampant sexism, etc., and then finally drew the line at race. He's simply too entrenched to dislodge, and I doubt even this latest foolishness will do anything to silence him.

It's the curse of the Nobel. When brilliant jerks get it, you have to hear every stupid idea from them until they croak. Meanwhile, every other crank in the universe gets to use their reputation to bolster their idiotic ideas. Now it will be "See! Blacks are inferior. A Nobel Prize winner said so." And we'll never hear the end of it. Just like Lynn Margulis and HIV/AIDS denial/911 crankery, and Kary Mullis (one of the co-discovers of PCR) and his broad spectrum of idiotic ideas.

At October 18, 2007 , Blogger Matteson said...

"The studies show..." Geeze. I'd love to see his citations on that one.

At October 18, 2007 , Blogger HellKaiserRyo said...

No, look on the Internet to find the studies. I did some research regarding this topic and all it brings is despondency. Do not search for the information regarding racial intelligence differences for your own good.


Why do you objurgate germinal choice technology? I do not know what James Hughes-sensei believes regarding the average intelligence of racial groups, and I do not want to know. But if germinal choice technologies are available for everyone, it will eliminate the devisive forms of racism.

The anti-racist implications of germinal choice technology have also given racists a pause. In a thread on the neo-Nazi Stormfront Web site titled "Is Transhumanism Good for White Nationalists?"
one post notes:

What's wrong with this form of egalitarianism? After all, if everyone is genetically engineered with superior intelligence, blacks, whites, yellows, and all, then the would would be a much better place. The problem with egalitarianism today is that people are trying to make equal that which is simply not equal. But if everyone were truly equal, there would be no need to make everyone equal, and therefore no need for egalitarianism.

But another poster objects:

I have some real concern about the ability of the White race to use these technologies wisely in the present situation. Eugenics in recent decades has largely meant going to a sperm bank to have the child of a Jewish medical student.

Citizen Cyborg 143

Transhumanism is incompatible with racism. I restrict myself from thinking those thoughts and do my best to remain optimistic.

At October 18, 2007 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

The "studies" are the problem. They don't really measure intelligence and besides that, who cares about meaningless differences on tests? Whatever problems exist on the African Continent have to do with culture, the vestiges of colonialism, corruption, exploitation, nihilism, etc., not the capacities of people who live there. Transhumanism is, in a sense, anti-human precisely because it values function rather than being.

At October 18, 2007 , Blogger Matteson said...

You're right about the first thing you say here, Wes. Any attempt to measure intelligence across such vast societal distances is bound to be fundamentally flawed.

The second comment about transhumanism is only trivially true. It is anti-human in the sense that it doesn't define "person" as merely "homo sapien." It is pro-person because it seeks to maximize the ability of persons to BE persons.

At October 18, 2007 , Blogger Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

Somehow, when folks start out by saying that they see more than humans as people, they end up making some humans not-people.....

At October 19, 2007 , Blogger T E Fine said...

Transhumanism ideal:

With the resources available, everyone will have a chance to have their physical and mental abilities increased so they have a shot at doing anything they want to.

Transhumanist reality:

Someone somewhere is going to assume that 1) we don't have the resources to share equally with all people and 2) some people aren't worth the effort of improving, thus 3) some folks will say that the resources should be saved for people who deserve it, like white folks, or Christians, or Atheists, or black folks, or....

And I know one group that believes that children born with birth defects should be raised to young adulthood so they can have their body-parts harvested for transplants. I'll find the link if anyone wants it.

Since a lot of people believe that everyone on earth with homo sapians genes has equal right to life, liberty, the persuit of happiness, etc., then we naturally don't like transhumanism because there's too much of the reality and not enough of the ideal.

At October 19, 2007 , Blogger Matteson said...

Yes, it would make some humans non-people. I know that this is a contentious point, but it is sentiment rather than logic which leads you to criticize this idea.

As for the "reality of transhumanism:" I really don't know what you're talking about. If you want to say that transhumanism is bad as an ideal based on the fact that there are folks out there who want to limit the accessibility of the tech to some particular group then you are making the same mistake that I would be if I were to say that all Christians are crazy because David Koresh was a nut or that all followers of Islam are terrorists. Citing a stereotype is not very productive and it certainly doesn't lend weight to your case.

As for Watson, it seems like he may have been taken out of context in some way. CNN today has a quote from him saying that he certainly didn't mean to say that all Africans aren't smart, but rather something like "they don't have the (educational) intelligence that we (Westerners) do." Still a sweeping generalization, but not obviously racist.


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