October 18, 2007

Race-row scientist's remarks condemned by minister as fuel for far-right

A Government minister has condemned a Nobel prize-winning geneticist for claiming that black people are less intelligent than white people.

David Lammy, the skills minister, said that James Watson's comments were “deeply offensive” and would “succeed only in providing oxygen for the BNP”.

It follows comments by the US-born Dr Watson to a newspaper in which 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”.

He hoped everyone was equal, he said, but “people who have to deal with black employees find this is not true”.

Mr Lammy, a Harvard graduate whose family come from the Caribbean, said: “These comments are deeply offensive. They will succeed only in providing oxygen for the BNP. It is a shame that a man with a record of scientific distinction should see his work overshadowed by his own irrational prejudices. It is no surprise to me that the scientific community has condemned this outburst and I think people will recognise these comments for what they are.”

He added: “What is important is that this does not distract from the real business of giving people from all backgrounds the best possible chance in life.”

Dr Watson, 79, was one of three people working at Cambridge University who shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962 for discovering the structure of DNA and now runs a School of Biological Sciences in the US. He made the controversial assertions in an interview in The Sunday Times.

Mr Lammy's comments follow the decision by the London Science Museum to ban Dr Watson from giving a lecture tomorrow after his comments were made public. The museum said that it was cancelling the American's speech. “The Science Museum feels that Nobel Prize winner James Watson's recent comments have gone beyond the point of acceptable debate and we are as a result cancelling his talk at the museum this Friday. If people want to know about the science behind genetics and race, they can book on to other events looking at this at the museum's Dana Centre over the next year.”

Dr Watson arrived in Britain yesterday to promote his latest book, Avoid Boring People: Lessons from a Life in Science. He may also be banned from appearing at other bookshops and lectures planned for its promotion.

Dr Watson has courted controversy in the past, reportedly saying that a woman should have the right to abort her unborn child if tests could determine it would be homosexual. He has also suggested a link between skin colour and sex drive, proposing a theory that black people have higher libidos, and claimed that beauty could be genetically manufactured. He has said: “People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would be great.”

On the issue of obesity, Dr Watson has also been quoted as saying: “Whenever you interview fat people, you feel bad, because you know you're not going to hire them.”

Steven Rose, a professor of biological sciences at the Open University, labelled his recent comments as racist.

“This is Watson at his most scandalous. He has said similar things about women before but I have never heard him get into this racist terrain. If he knew the literature in the subject he would know he was out of his depth scientifically, quite apart from socially and politically.”

Times Online

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

where have i heard the phrase "providing the bnp with the oxygen of publicity before?"

was it when MP Margaret Hodge a government minister opened her mouth, or when Baroness Warsi opened her mouth, or when Geoff Hoon shared a platform with big bum Sadie.

Certain political parties need to sort out their own senior ministers etc.

Yes the man is a mad scientist, and of course he is going to throw something in the pot, and what happens he now has his face on the front page of all national newspapers and his lecture tour will be a sell out. He will then go home, we are stuck with our mad big mouths.