Skip navigation

John Chuckman



‘Discoverer Of DNA’s Double-Helix Banned From U of I For “Failing Test Of Decency” ‘

Well, this is an old controversy.

I don’t know that I’ve ever read a genuinely racist comment from James Watson, but he has made some extremely controversial comments, comments which anger many people, black people especially.

But saying something which angers some groups is not the same thing as being racist.

Racism is a kind of prejudice, and all prejudice is ignorance and superstition, whether religious or racial or political prejudices.

The opposite of prejudice is science, a method for discovering facts.

James Watson is criticized for exactly the same kind of statements made by William Shockley, another Nobel winner who helped discover the transistor.

Yet both these men read the literature of intelligence and its variations between groups, a literature informed by literally millions of IQ tests over decades, and drawn their conclusions from that. You may not like that, but it cannot accurately be called prejudice.

That literature of the distribution of intelligence is not a gutter or scurrilous literature, although, it arouses intense angers and controversies. It includes some pretty capable investigators and authors, such as Arthur Jensen, and their work is there to be scrutinized and criticized. It is not hidden away like secret nonsense or mumbo-jumbo.

I do not think that can fairly be called racist.

It could conceivably be incorrect, but it would need to be proven incorrect, and, so far as I am aware, it has not been proved incorrect, only discounted by social attitudes.

In general, that literature says Ashkenazi Jews and Asians have the highest average IQs, with Caucasian-type people second, and black people last. I stress that those data divisions are not just arbitrarily set by prejudiced views. Quite the opposite, they literally fall out of an immense body of data.

If we choose to ignore the data – as by saying the tests yielding the data were invalid or inaccurate measurements in some way, quite a common, though unproven, response by critics – we may examine instead some genuine intellectual successes in the world and see how they compare to the test results.

In the people who build businesses, the people who excel at science and math, and the people who invent complex new things both in technology and art – we do tend to see the same general groupings seen in the test data. That is a highly suggestive fact.

I don’t know, but I do know Americans are extremely ready to call people names like “racist,” and they do that at the drop of a hat when they do not like someone’s views. We see the same phenomenon at work regularly in America with other name-calling, as when people are called misogynists or anti-Semites or any other “-ist” or “-ite” you care to mention.

The current President of the United States – whether you like him or not, and I do not – has been at the receiving end of a storm of exactly such abusive name-calling, none of it with any basis in fact.

It does seem to be an American tradition, part, I think, of what critic Robert Hughes called America’s “culture of complaint.” Remember, in his day, that now most sainted of all American presidents, Abraham Lincoln, was often called “an obscene ape.”

When someone stops analyzing and criticizing facts and starts calling names, you can be sure, ipso facto, that you are dealing with another form of prejudice in the people calling the names, a genuine form of prejudice, and the very opposite of science, having nothing to do with facts.




%d bloggers like this: