I’ve written in the recent past about why Jim Watson is bad for science, especially the perception non-scientists get of science as a result of his pseudo-scientific racist natterings. I analyzed the reactions within the scientific community to the recent Watson imbroglio.
It’s far past time for me to speak up about how Watson’s mess hits closer to home. I am talking about his role on the board of directors of Seed Media Group as a scientific adviser. Seed Media Group, as you may know, is the organization that sponsors Scienceblogs. I have to tell you, it is extremely disgusting to be associated with Jim Watson in this way, no matter how distant that relationship may be. Seed doesn’t tell us what we should or can’t blog about, but the fact remains that I am blogging for an organization that thinks hanging out with Watson is just dandy – even in the face of the recent blow-up that came after he dissed all of Africa. I have to ask myself seriously if it is a good idea to continue that association.
Here are some questions I’d love to have answered:
- Why did the powers-that-be at Seed (and here I’m asking you, Adam Bly), why did they think that associating with a known racist misogynist ass was a good idea in the first place? It’s not like there aren’t any other prominent scientists who could fill the advisory post.
- How does having a racist misogynist ass – who uses pseudo-science to promote and support his prejudice – as an adviser help promote Seed’s “Science Is Culture” message and, more importantly, its espoused advocacy for scientific literacy?
- In what manner is having Watson on board consistent with supporting blogs/bloggers like Thus Spake Zuska, Sciencewoman and Alice Pawley at On Being A Scientist And A Woman, Karen Ventii at Science to Life, Maria Brumm at Green Gabbro, and Janet Stemwedel at Adventures in Ethics and Science?
- Asking Jim Watson to support your efforts makes you a de facto Apologist For The Oppressor. How do you manage to feel comfortable with that role?
Seed’s choice of Jim Watson as a scientific adviser is a slap in the face to everyone who cares about scientific integrity and equity in science. Make no mistake Adam Bly, you send a message to the world through this continuing association that is louder than any explicit platitudes you might mouth about your passion for science and your advocacy of scientific literacy, or any expressed concern for underrepresented minorities in science. But hey, if you’re comfortable with all that, then just stick with Jim.
In the face of that, I have to seriously ask myself if I should stick with Scienceblogs.
UPDATE: From the Harvard Crimson article about Watson’s ties with Seed Media:
Howard C. Berg, the Smith professor of physics and a friend and colleague of Watson for over 40 years, said he had no personal knowledge of Seed Media Group.
But he said that Watson would not associate himself with an organization on a superficial level.
“If he didn’t participate directly in the work in a significant way, he wouldn’t attach his name to it,” Berg said of Watson. “In that regard, he’s very ethical.”
Having him on board as a figurehead is bad enough; if he is really working closely with Seed, that’s even worse.
From the Scientific American article on Watson’s “retirement” from CSH:
However Andrew Berry, who wrote a book on DNA in 2003 with Watson, said “It seems to me a no-brainer” for Seed Media to remove Watson as an adviser.
Apparently thinking about continuing association with Watson is more difficult than one would imagine for the folks at Seed. One does wonder why.
(thanks to Janet Stemwedel for reminding me of those links.)