Adam Rutherford thinks James Watson deserves to be shunned. I have to agree.
“No one really wants to admit I exist” says Watson. That’s not it. It’s more that no one is interested in his racist, sexist views. Watson, alongside Crick, will always be the discoverer of the double helix, to my mind the scientific breakthrough of the 20th century. Here’s our challenge: celebrate science when it is great, and scientists when they deserve it. And when they turn out to be awful bigots, let’s be honest about that too. It turns out that just like DNA, people are messy, complex and sometimes full of hideous errors.
Discovering the structure of DNA was phenomenally productive — the biology that erupted out of the field after that revelation has been dazzling us for decades. I’m happy to say, “Thank you, Jim and Francis, that was most excellent,” and also to chastise Watson for having odious and unscientific beliefs. Really, you can do that: making a revolutionary discovery does not mean you get deified.
Dave Munger pointed out back in 2008 that Watson shouldn’t be advising anyone anyone about science, and that he should be kicked off Seed Media’s advisory board (I think that board has dissolved for other reasons now). Even though it means the HBD loons will whine piteously, I have to agree too that the crap Watson has been spewing is not useful, it doesn’t prompt any scientific analysis, it just rehashes long defunct arguments that have been knocked down over and over.
There are those who suggest that Watson’s remarks should be a springboard for true scientific discussion on the heritability and racial differences in IQ, but we say, enough is enough. These aren’t new arguments, and the discussion isn’t productive, especially when what counts for “discussion” are bigoted remarks to a newspaper reporter. We don’t think James Watson should be anyone’s science adviser — and we especially don’t think he should be advising those responsible for the system hosting our blog.
Have a happy retirement, Dr Watson.