Science Museum cancels talk by geneticist James Watson

He claims that black people are less intelligent. The Times quotes him as saying

… you should not discriminate on the basis of colour, because “there are many people of colour who are very talented, but don’t promote them when they haven’t succeeded at the lower level”. He writes that “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”.

So Watson doesn’t seem to have any “firm reason”, beyond than his own personal views about black people, to say what he says. The Science Museum commented that his views go “beyond the point of acceptable debate“.

It’s called a no platform policy. I think it’s fair enough.

It seems the Oxford Union, on the other hand, will give anybody a platform.  I can’t comment on their motives.


3 thoughts on “Science Museum cancels talk by geneticist James Watson

  1. There’s acres of scientific evidence about the cognitive “deficiencies” of blacks in general and the differences between races. Watson’s view is hardly a personal prejuduce, although the press would have you think so. His lecture is not even about “race”, but rather about a life in science. And the Science Museum has effectively banned him, citing a “no platform” policy? No platform for what – science? No platform for findings they don’t like? After all, it’s Black History Month, and we mustn’t risk offending the poor race hucksters like the Human Rights and Equality Commission. Another black “human rights” organisation, Blink, described Dr Watson’s remarks as “scientifically unethical”, “unjustifiable” and “ideologically fudged”. Read those phrases again. It ought to make a scientist’s flesh crawl.

  2. BB, are you saying he didn’t say those things or that he was taken out of context or that he made an error of judgement?

    In the case of the third, I’d look at the nature of the error and uninvite him anyway. Intellect, unlike cancer or myopia and even more than, say, high blood pressure, is a social construct. I’m extremely suspicious of scientific so-called evidence about intellect – as if it were an independent condition, although its characteristics are vigorously contested – which is organised, or conceived, along ethnic lines.

    And I’m even more suspicious when people make confident announcements about the putative intellectual inferiority of black people which seem to have no bearing on the matter at hand, and also when people who are interested in ethnicity above other attributes in their assessments and decision making.

    In the case of the second, are you saying that he elaborated at length and was reassuring about the implications of the research but The Times didn’t bother? Why didn’t he insist? Why did he allow himself to be represented as reinforcing a prevalent, demoralising, damaging and untrue stereotype about black people? Now maybe he was misrepresented by the media. But the fact that the Science Museum rejected him for his views suggests otherwise. Or are you suggesting that the Science Museum made the assessment as a public relations exercise? I doubt it.

    Look, the Science Museum no longer want to be associated with Watson. That’s their prerogative. They haven’t banned him and they aren’t launching a campaign against him. They take him as a package – abortion of foetuses with genes for homosexuality and all – and they don’t want to dignify him with a platform. He may be an excellent scientist, but his ideology does indeed seem unethical based on what we know from the reports.

  3. More on Crooked Timber quoting from Cosma Shalizi’s post

    “In primitive societies, or so Malinowski taught, myths serve as the legitimating charters of practices and institutions. Just so here: the myth of g legitimates a vast enterprise of intelligence testing and theorizing. There should be no dispute that, when we lack specialized and valid instruments, general IQ tests can be better than nothing. Claims that they are anything more than such stop-gaps — that they are triumphs of psychological science, illuminating the workings of the mind; keys to the fates of individuals and peoples; sources of harsh truths which only a courageous few have the strength to bear; etc., etc., — such claims are at present entirely unjustified, though not, perhaps, unmotivated. They are supported only by the myth, and acceptance of the myth itself rests on what I can only call an astonishing methodological backwardness.

    The bottom line is: The sooner we stop paying attention to g, the sooner we can devote our energies to understanding the mind.”

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