It’s not often that an eminent and Nobel prize winning scientist is blacklisted. And even rarer when his work is not only non-controversial but a foundation of much of modern medicine and human genetics. But that’s just what’s happened to Dr. James Watson. The co-discoverer of DNA found himself disinvited from addressing London’s Science Museum after he stated in an interview that:

[he is] 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

and, just in case someone mistook his meaning, went on to point out that:

people who have to deal with black employees find [equality of intellect to be] not true

As the interview above demonstrates, this isn’t the first time Dr. Watson has said controversial things. As New Scientist points out, he’s Master of the Scientific Gaffe.

All of which brings up some questions:

  • Should we expect experts in one narrow field to be competent outside the field?
  • Should we expect people with a history of stupid, insensitive comments to stop making them?
  • Why does Eugenics have such a hold on so many eminent biologists? Is this a case of Maslow’s Principle?
  • Is Dr. Watson really a genius, or “just” an effective and dedicated scientist who made a huge contribution through hard work?
  • Could poverty and social chaos be as much to blame for Africa’s woes as bad genes?
  • Could all of this have been avoided if Dr. Watson had been forced to watch “Trading Places” on an annual basis?

Discuss amongst yourselves.