James Watson, 1962 Nobel Prize winner
for co-discovering the structure of DNA along with
Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins.
Yesterday, Adam Bly, founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Seed Media Group, was interviewed by Carol Goar for an editorial about the Canadian government’s dismissal of its national science adviser, Arthur Carty.
“Science is driving our global culture unlike ever before,” Bly is cited as saying. “Now is not the time to send a signal — domestically and internationally — that Canada just doesn’t get it.”
In view of that news story, I have been daily surprised that very very few people in the mainstream media, the blogosphere or elsewhere have written about the fact that Bly is telling other people how to run their own political show while James Watson, nobelist and world famous racist and sexist asshole, is still acting as the scientific advisor for Seed Media Group, which is the owner of ScienceBlogs, which hosts this and 65 other blogs. Personally, I can’t imagine why there hasn’t been an enormous uproar over this outrageous situation, which continues to this very day. After all, how can ScienceBlogs, and Bly in particular, justify the continued odious presence of such a “scientific advisor” for an organization whose catch phrase is “science is culture”, and whose goal is to make science more attractive and understandable to the public — a public that Watson obviously reviles?
For those who might not know what happened, let me recap. Last October, “Lucky Jim” Watson demonstrated his opinion about Africans when he was quoted as saying that 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.”
These statements were the final straw in the long career of a lifelong asshole. Even though a pseudo-mortified Watson apologized for his comments by saying “I am deeply saddened by the events of the last week … in the aftermath of a racist statement … that was both profoundly offensive and utterly unsupported by scientific evidence.”
But is he really sincere in this assertion? The evidence suggests that he was probably sincerely sorry for being caught making such dumbass and unfounded comments, but I highly doubt his “apology” represents a change of mind or heart because the man has a long track record of making similarly disparaging remarks about people whom he personally believes are lacking in various ways. For example, Watson not only hates Black Africans, but he also has some strong opinions about everybody else, beginning with stupid people. Here he is in New Scientist, arguing that stupidity is a disease and the “really stupid” bottom 10% of people should be cured;
“If you are really stupid, I would call that a disease,” says Watson, now president of the Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory, New York. “The lower 10 per cent who really have difficulty, even in elementary school, what’s the cause of it? A lot of people would like to say, ‘Well, poverty, things like that.’ It probably isn’t. So I’d like to get rid of that, to help the lower 10 per cent.”
This is not an isolated comment, however. In fact, Watson has made similar remarks, all without any scientific data to support them. For example, while giving a public science lecture, the San Francisco Chronicle quoted him as claiming that there was a biochemical link between sunlight and sexual behavior.
“That’s why you have Latin lovers. You’ve never heard of an English lover. Only an English patient.”
As if to drive home his point, the lecture was filled with slides of bikini-clad women.
Watson also proves his lack of intellectual integrity by gleefully allowing himself to be strongly biased on the basis of physical appearances alone. For example, he was quoted in the New Scientist, asserting that beauty in women can be genetically engineered, and says that all girls should be engineered to be physically attractive (to men, no doubt).
“People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would be great.”
Watson also promotes a strongly negative opinion about fat people, as revealed by the San Francisco Chronicle.
“Whenever you interview fat people, you feel bad, because you know you’re not going to hire them.”
Watson is not above using his prominence to protect his vast chasm of well-deserved insecurity, either. In his self-aggrandizing memoir, The Double Helix, Watson writes harshly about a colleague of his, Rosalind Franklin, whose painstaking research in x-ray crystallography was, by his own admission, essential in his Nobel Prize in 1962;
By choice she did not emphasize her feminine qualities. . . . There was never lipstick to contrast with her straight black hair, while at the age of thirty-one her dresses showed all the imagination of English blue-stocking adolescents. So it was quite easy to imagine her the product of an unsatisfied mother who unduly stressed the desirability of professional careers that could save bright girls from marriages to dull men. . . . Clearly Rosy had to go or be put in her place. The former was obviously preferable because, given her belligerent moods, it would be very difficult for Maurice [Wilkins] to maintain a dominant position that would allow him to think unhindered about DNA. . . . The thought could not be avoided that the best home for a feminist was in another person’s lab.
Rosalind Franklin was not only a colleague of Watson’s, but apparently, thought that he and his collaborator, Francis Crick, were friends, and she regularly communicated with them often until her untimely death of cancer at the age of 37.
Watson has made many more comments like these, but these are the best documented that I could find on the web. So, in short, I think it is a grave error for Seed Media Group to continue to allow this man to remain in his position as Science Advisor. This is not only an insult to science itself, but it is deeply offensive to the integrity of the people who work in science.
Other pieces I’ve written about Watson;