Chapela on Watson and eugenics (26/10/2007)

1.Chapela on Watson and eugenics
2.Words of a Laureate

NOTE: This letter (item 1) was sent to The New York Times in response to the article 'Nobel Winner Issues Apology for Comments About Blacks' by Cornelia Dean (published: October 19 2007). Since it was written, Watson and Cold Spring Harbor have parted company.


1.Chapela on Watson and eugenics

To: The Editor, The New York Times, via email
From: Ignacio Chapela, Assoicate Professor, University of California, Berkeley

Dear Sir,

James Watson's shameful comments in England are not out of character, unusual or accidental. We at Berkeley have too often been regaled with his gratuitous statements spuriously connecting intelligence with race, body weight or gender. But beyond his personal behaviour, he also represents the mainstream of a powerful, uninterrupted history of eugenic practice that has inflicted, by concept and by practice, much human suffering past and present, including the worst of Nazi atrocities. This connection is amply documented by Edwin Black who states: 'After the world recoiled from Nazi atrocities, the American eugenics movement - its institutions and leading scientists - renamed and regrouped under the banner of an enlightened science called human genetics.' In this enterprise, Chancellor [James] Watson occupies the very position held by the founder and first director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Dr. Charles B. Davenport, undeniably an unrepenting mainstay of support for Nazi eugenics.

The imperatives of a news cycle might explain why Cornelia Dean or any editor at the Times - did not mention Edwin Brown's research; what cannot be overlooked is the continued refusal by Watson and Cold Spring Harbour to seriously acknowledge and confront the sombre reality of their role as the living continuation of a past that many prefer to imagine long buried.

Until such a reckoning takes place, we must keep denouncing half-hearted official statements and bureaucratic maneuvers to divert the light from Watson's convictions, spouted and put into practice from one of the highest positions of influence in the scientific establishment.


2.Words of a Laureate

Watson on genetically engineering beauty: 'People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would be great.'

Watson on race: '[I am] inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa...all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really.'

Watson on body weight: 'Whenever you interview fat people, you feel bad, because you know you're not going to hire them.'

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