For Dr. James Watson, 79-year-old co-winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize for medicine for his discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA, October marked the nadir of a brilliant career.
The month began with Watson headed to London to promote his new book, "Avoid Boring People: Lessons From a Life in Science," and to lecture to a sold-out audience at the prestigious Science Museum. An author's dream tour.
Last week, his lecture was canceled, his tour terminated, his 40-year tenure as chancellor of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island came to an end. Across Britain, he was being denounced as a racist.
What had the wicked Dr. Watson done?
Did he defend the chattel slavery in which five of our first seven presidents engaged? No. Did he agree with Abraham Lincoln that blacks did not deserve equal social and political rights and should be sent back to the continent whence their ancestors came? No. Did he argue for the segregation that was the law in the nation's capital in which this writer grew up? No. Did he utter the "N-word" used by Harry Truman, who integrated the armed forces, and Lyndon Johnson, who enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965? No.
Watson neither endorsed segregation nor expressed any animus toward people of color. He had simply told The Sunday Times he was "inherently gloomy about the prospects 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."
While there is a natural desire to believe all people are equal, Watson said, "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true."
In his new book, Watson adds, "There 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."
What Watson was saying was: From a long life and his own reading of IQ test scores, he believes that intelligence is not distributed equally among the races. That conclusion was also reached by social scientists Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray in the 1990s best-seller "The Bell Curve." The SAT scores seem to bear them out.
When Watson's remarks hit print, however, a new London blitz began.
The Labor Party chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee charged Watson with "baseless, unscientific and extremely offensive comments" and urged his colleagues to "reject what appear to be Dr. Watson's personal prejudices."
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