Jim Watson needs to retire to a nice, remote beach somewhere far from everyone else

Dr. James Watson, Cold Spring Harbor, NY, 7.23.06

It’s long past due. He’s been shooting himself in the foot and then stuffing it in his mouth to gnaw on it for decades. He was in the news for his racist, sexist views ten years ago.

The article is like a summary of Watson’s greatest gaffes.

In 1997, he told a British newspaper that a woman should have the right to abort her unborn child if tests could determine it would be homosexual. He later insisted he was talking about a “hypothetical” choice which could never be applied. He has also suggested a link between skin colour and sex drive, positing the theory that black people have higher libidos, and argued in favour of genetic screening and engineering on the basis that “stupidity” could one day be cured. He has claimed that beauty could be genetically manufactured, saying: “People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would great.”

Zuska has another one.

He smiles. “Rosalind is my cross,” he says slowly. “I’ll bear it. I think she was partially autistic.” He pauses for a while, before repeating the suggestion, as if to make it clear that this is no off-the-cuff insult, but a considered diagnosis. “I’d never really thought of scientists as autistic until this whole business of high-intelligence autism came up. There is probably no other explanation for Rosalind’s behaviour.

At that time I thought he was a horrible old man but I argued that he ought to have the right to speak freely…and he does. He speaks very freely. But what he says is neither intelligent nor insightful, and he doesn’t deserve respect for his stupid opinions. Especially when tolerance just means he never learns and keeps doing the same thing over and over again.

Now the Carl Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois has cancelled an invitation to speak.

A research institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign agreed to host James Watson, a Nobel laureate whose work is credited with discovering the structure of DNA, to give a lecture there. But the event was quickly called off amid faculty concerns about whether it was appropriate to host someone like Watson, whose statements have been widely condemned as racist.

Watson has made numerous controversial comments over the years and also has been condemned for sexist and homophobic statements.

But his comments on race have led many to say he should be shunned.

In a 2007 interview, he said 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.” Further, he said that while people hope that all groups are equal, “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.” (He also said that some black people are smart, and has apologized, although many question the sincerity of his apology.)

I had dinner with Watson at a small restaurant in New York several years ago. It was the most uncomfortable two hours of my life. All he wanted to talk about was race, and the conversation was all about our geneaology. He asked what my ancestry was, and when I told him half Scandinavian, half Scot/English/Irish he immediately judged me acceptable company, and started explaining my personality to me. Scandinavians are intelligent but cold and aloof, and share the same problems that the Japanese have: they are among the smartest people in the world, but they lack the passion and drive to accomplish great things. You know who may not be as intrinsically intelligent, but make up for it with their aggressive need to get things done? The Scots/Irish! Best people on the planet! The perfect combination of ambition and smarts!

I think he thought he was flattering me, but I just wanted to sink into my chair and down through the floor and drop into a subway tube. Heck, dropping into a sewer line would be preferable.

It was difficult to get a word in edgewise with this guy, but after that pronouncement he looked at me expectantly — I could tell there was a question he wanted me to ask. So I obliged, knowing exactly what the answer would be. “So, Jim, what’s your ancestry?”

“Scots/Irish!” he cackled.

And then he regaled the table with tales of brave explorers and pioneers and soldiers, all his people. I tried to strike up a conversation with his wife, instead, who seemed very nice and a little distressed at her husband’s mania.

So, yes, I’ve heard more than enough of Jim Watson. I think we all ought to be a bit Watsoned out at this point, and I don’t see any purpose in inviting him to give public lectures anymore. You never know: he might launch into a fact-free fairy tale about having dark skin, being fat, and being over-sexed as linked properties caused by exposure to the sun and living in tropical countries, illustrated with a slide show of women in bikinis.

He really did that.

I’m just surprised that any professional organization would be so unaware of his reputation that they’d invite him in the first place.

She’s a good dog

Ollie is a good dog, yes she is. Such a good dog! It’s not her fault that she has ended up on the editorial boards of medical journals.

…in one respect, the Staffordshire Terrier differs radically from her canine peers: she has a burgeoning academic career, and sits on the editorial boards of seven medical journals.

As you may have guessed, the journals on whose boards Ollie sits are of the predatory variety. These are shadowy, online publications that mimic legitimate journals, but are prepared to publish anything in exchange for a fee that can run into thousands of dollars. Predatory journals prey on desperate young researchers under huge pressure to get their research published to further their careers.

Ollie’s owner is Mike Daube, Professor of Health Policy at Curtin University in Perth. Ollie likes to watch Mike working on his computer, and Mike gets a lot of emails from predatory journals. Wondering just how low these journals would go, he put together a curriculum vitae for his dog – detailing research interests such as “the benefits of abdominal massage for medium-sized canines” – and sent it off to a number of these journals, asking for a spot on their editorial boards.

She has also been asked to review papers. I suspect she’d be a harsh critic, despite being such a good dog, because usually when you put a paper on the floor they poop on it. And that’s good! Good doggie!

Why Fox News is a joke

It’s a whole collection of Baghdad Bobs. You have to see this ludicrous fascist propaganda from Jeanine Pirro to believe it.

Here are just her opening sentences.

President Trump has wrapped up his intense 9 day overseas international voyage that by all accounts was a home run. Our commander-in-chief, the pillar of strength and a true advocate for America. His message: clear and unequivocal. There was no apology, no wimpish behavior, and no bowing down to other leaders. But instead, strength, honor, and determination.

“By all accounts”? You mean like this one, Trump’s ally-angering trip abroad, explained in 7 images, or possibly this one, The Most Cringe-Worthy Moments From Trump’s First International Trip? Or possibly this account, The Ugly American’s road trip: Donald Trump and America’s declining culture. Or Trump’s behavior at NATO is a national embarrassment. Or The 8 Most Embarrassing Moments from Trump’s *ONE DAY* at NATO. Or Our Embarrassment in Chief’s International Trip Is No Laughing Matter.

Pirro is raving and completely disconnected from reality…how does she remain employed? Or rather, how come Donald Trump hasn’t snatched her away to be his new press secretary?

If you can bear to sit through the whole thing, at the end her big point is that Trump is perfect, and he has only one problem: leakers. The leakers in the White House are the true traitors who must be rooted out and punished. She looked like she wanted to pound the table, except that such vigorous action might make her face fall off and expose the hate machine behind it.

Is this a Texas thing?

This is not what teachers are supposed to do, and in fact, this is kind of the opposite of a teacher’s role. A teacher at Anthony Aguirre Junior High handed out fake certificates, including one labeled ‘most likely to be a terrorist’, to kids, while other teachers laughed. It’s just a joke, don’t be so sensitive, yadda yadda yadda.

And if that wasn’t appalling enough, another teacher also handed out fake awards to their kids, including “most likely to blend in with white people” to a black student.

Did they think that was a compliment? Because that would be all kinds of fucked up, too.

The school administration has clammed up — they say these teachers will be ‘disciplined’. I have no idea what that means, nor does anyone, and it does no one any favors to fail to be transparent about these sorts of problems.

It sounds to me, though, like there are some teachers at that school who are not suited to their profession and need to find new jobs.

Meet the Freethought Bloggers #1!

I’m getting together in small groups with some of our fellow bloggers here to help you all figure out what they’re up to. First up are William Brinkman of the Bolingbrook Babbler and HJ Hornbeck of Reprobate Spreadsheet. We had a brief conversation about what they’ve been writing about recently.

I’ll be doing some more of these over the summer, and in fact have another one scheduled for this evening. While you’re waiting for that, as I’m sure you are, visit Brinkman and Hornbeck.

I get email…from AAI?

It’s always strange to abruptly learn about potentially devastating scandals after they’ve been resolved. This email was the first I heard about a big potential problem for Atheist Alliance International, but it was a relief to learn at the same time that it has been satisfactorily taken care of.

On January 29, Atheist Alliance International received a fraudulent request for funds transfer, originating from our president@atheistalliance.org address. We did not honour the request, and we reported it to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), who assigned a case number. All AAI Board members are well-aware of AAI’s policy of Board approval for all non-operational expenses, excepting the President’s monthly discretionary spending. For obvious reasons, our Treasurer did not transfer the funds, and no further correspondence was received by the requester.

As a prominent atheist organization, AAI is no stranger to fraudulent request for funds. We ignore obvious scams, and when a financial institution is misrepresented, we forward said correspondence to their spoof or phishing reporting e-mail address. However, the timing of the request, closely coinciding with the other anonymous accusations against Mr. Romano, raised our Treasurer’s suspicions, so she reported it to the Board. Mr. Romano stated that he was unaware of the request prior, and that he did not send it nor the follow-up. The Board has no reason to doubt this is true. Our Treasurer turned in the relevant documentation to the local authorities, who assigned a case number. However, since AAI did not suffer a financial loss from this fraudulent attempt, it is unlikely that this case will get prioritized if even addressed.

Four days later, on February 2, 2017, Atheist Alliance International (AAI) received correspondence from an anonymous source, who accused our President, Onur Romano, of being “a serial abuser, and he escapes from law and persecution, country after country.” Our Secretary immediately contacted the local authorities in the city where Mr. Romano resides, as well as the authorities in the Secretary’s country of residence to report the accusation and offer our full cooperation.

Mr. Romano submitted his resignation on February 5, 2017 in the interest of preserving our organization’s reputation. AAI proceeded with an internal investigation. Mr. Romano has denied the allegations made by the anonymous accuser, and cooperated fully and transparently with both the local authorities and AAI, at his own expense. He denied the anonymous accuser’s allegations, and produced documentation showing a clean criminal record in Turkey, the US, and Canada, and documentation of his acquittal of the charges in USA. He has also issued a letter from his lawyer in USA, confirming that “although Mr.Cilek(Romano) requested a timely trial while the evidence and recollection of witnesses was fresh and the witnesses were in the area and available to testify,” the case against him was dismissed in 2003 because “the State felt that they would not meet their burden of proving a case against Mr.Cilek(Romano)”.

Our internal investigation further addressed an allegation by one of our member organizations’ leadership, who claimed that a member of their organization voted for Mr. Romano to the role of AAI President without authorization. Our records indicate that Mr. Romano nominated himself as an individual member of AAI, and did not identify any affiliate or associate member, or individual representing same, as an endorser in his application. His application was presented to AAI’s Board in November 2015, and the on-line motion to accept him as a Board member was unanimous. He was unanimously elected as President by the Board in April 2016, and the motion to confirm his role was passed at our 2015 AGM unanimously.

On April 7, 2017, the RCMP followed up, stating their investigation is finalized and did not support any of the anonymous allegations, confirming Mr. Romano’s clean record and legitimate residency in Canada, and advising us to regard the matter as closed.

In the unanticipated possibility that the relevant legal authorities seek further information from AAI, we remain committed to transparency, and we will cooperate to the best of our abilities to facilitate any legal investigation. In the interim, we consider this issue settled. AAI regards this investigation as closed. Further, the Board supported Mr. Romano’s immediate re-instatement as President of AAI on April 5, 2017.

I bet this kind of thing is a huge problem for any atheist organization: a Turkish atheist, like Romano, is always going to be a target. It sounds like AAI did everything right, treating the accusations seriously and investigating thoroughly. My one concern is that it mentions an internal investigation; that’s fine unless there are deeper concerns about the culture at the organization. Would anyone trust an internal investigation into sexual harassment claims by Uber? AAI does not have that kind of reputation — their bylaws mandate diversity in their board, for instance — but repeated accusations ought to face external review of some sort.

AAI retains my confidence, though.

By Christ’s sacred foreskin!

What a weirdly fascinating article, on the history of that most holy relic, Jesus’s prepuce. It also, by the way, includes the very best explanation for the prolific numbers of body parts of dead saints and prophets.

Once brought to light, the Holy Prepuce reproduced itself at a rapid rate. In a few hundred years, dozens of churches, including Saint John Lateran in Rome (the seat of the Pope) claimed to own a piece or all of the Holy Prepuce. Some suggested that there were so many different Holy Prepuces because it could, like the fish and loaves, multiply to feed hungry pilgrims.

But of course! If you believe in multitudes being fed with a few loaves and fishes, then it is no problem at all imagining that fragments of corpses are replicating. Fingerbones, shinbones, toenail clippings, whole skulls, and obviously, bits of penises, all slithering together at night in the dark corners of cathedrals, briefly writhing and clattering together, and then, voila, spawning a new relic. I imagine it also gives those immortal dead saints a little bit of an erotic outlet. You can’t blame them.

As long as they leave me out of it. Old Catholic mystics seem to have been more than a little pervy, with kinks I never even imagined before. Here’s Catherine of Siena, engaged in a little imaginary sexy vision game with Jesus.

“My beloved,” [Christ said], “you have now gone through many struggles for my sake. . . . Previously you had renounced all that the body takes pleasure in. . . . But yesterday the intensity of your ardent love for me overcame even the instinctive reflexes of your body itself: you forced yourself to swallow without a qualm a drink from which nature recoiled in disgust [i.e., pus from the putrefying breast of a dying woman]. . . . As you then went far beyond what mere human nature could ever have achieved, so I today shall give you a drink that transcends in perfection any that human nature can provide. . . .” With that, he tenderly placed his right hand on her neck, and drew her toward the wound in his side. “Drink, daughter, from my side,” he said, “and by that draught your soul shall become enraptured with such delight that your very body, which for my sake you have denied, shall be inundated with its overflowing goodness.” Drawn close . . . to the outlet of the Fountain of Life, she fastened her lips upon that sacred wound, and still more eagerly the mouth of her soul, and there she slaked her thirst.

All right, all right, I know, consenting adults and all that. You can do all the pus-drinking and wound-sucking you want in the privacy of your church. But you should know that all the sexual behaviors you currently condemn are looking pretty damned sane and healthy in comparison right now.