Thursday, October 18, 2007

James Watson apologizes. (And not for the first time.)

I told you this story would ripple out...

Now the British media are reporting that molecular biologist James D. Watson has apologized for suggesting that Africans are, by nature, less intelligent than whites.

“I am mortified about what has happened,” reads a statement by Watson. “More importantly, I cannot understand how I could have said what I am quoted as having said. ...

“To all those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologize unreservedly. That is not what I meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no scientific basis for such a belief.”

Well, that fixes everything.

Except for far-rightists such as Lawrence Auster, who interpret this apology to mean either that James Watson is an “intellectual coward” or that the apology is insincere.

And except for those most offended by Watson’s remarks in the first place, like blogger Prometheus 6, who wrote tonight: “I can smell the bullshit through the Internet connection.”

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time – not even the first time this year – that the esteemed Mr. Watson has had to apologize for some published remarks.

Back in January, in making a point about political correctness to Esquire magazine, he said hypothetically: “Should you be allowed to make an anti-Semitic remark? Yes, because some anti-Semitism is justified. Just like some anti-Irish feeling is justified. If you can’t be criticized, that’s very dangerous. You lose the concept of a free society.”

Watson also expressed the flip side of his notions about African intelligence, referencing Jews again. “I’ve wondered why people aren’t more intelligent,” he told Esquire. “Why isn’t everyone as intelligent as Ashkenazi Jews?”

The Anti-Defamation League called these remarks “disturbing.”

On January 19, Watson issued this apology:

“I deeply apologize for the statements attributed to me in the January 2007 issue of Esquire magazine. The bigoted remarks do not reflect, in any way, my beliefs or my life history. They do not reflect the values taught to me by my father. ...

“I know these words were hurtful and I apologize for the hurt they have caused.... I know a great deal about molecular biology but obviously not enough yet about the sensitivities of the human heart.”

Uhhh... no shit, Sherlock?


Lynn said...

He looks like a straight up mad scientist suffering from Alzheimers. That evil old prune would do good to find better things to do with his remaining brain cells than spend them throwing slurs at blacks.

RC said...

Although I have some very good theories about why this guy does so much brainless blurting out, the important thing to remember at the moment is that he is trying to get us to buy a book that is intended to give us some sterling advice about how we should act socially. I'm very confused because it's hard to figure out just what part of all of his brilliant marketing is serious and which part is the joke. Perhaps it's time to refer to him as Jim "Clowny" Watson.
And does he really need the money from a dead tree enterprise?
I can guess that he won't be getting any more book offers from publishers after this.

ItAintEazy said...

Yep, I can also smell the bullshit a mile away. Just like his apology for the Ashkenazi Jews comment is not really an apology if you take a close look at it, he was definitely parsing his words when he made the latest apology. What he meant to say is that SUB-saharan Africans were mentally inferior. Yeah, that's it.

memomachine said...


Stupidity is more common than hydrogen
- Frank Zappa

Comb & Razor said...

the interesting thing is that he's not actually apologizing or recanting his ideas, is he?

he's expressing regret that everybody else misunderstood and misquoted him.

also, he deliberately distances himself from the idea that "Africa as a continent is genetically inferior"... because of course, he never said that!

after all, "Africa as a continent" includes Arabs, Berbers, Indians, and even whites... he was speaking specifically of sub-Saharan negroes and their descendants.

well-played, my dear Watson! i respect your gangsta!

memomachine said...


In case there's any confusion my opinion about stupidity applies to Dr. Watson.

Keep in mind that it wasn't all that long ago that mongoloid = asian = retarded as the common wisdom.

If you want a full flavor of some of the nonsense being spouted about that look at the debates surrounding the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Prometheus 6 said...

I wasn't offended by the insult because he's a known quantity. It was the bullshit apology that actually irritated me. It's like, why do I have to hear from this ass again?

Anonymous said...

Both apologies are embarrassing because they shouldn't have been made. I'm Jewish and I'm not offended by his remarks about Jews. Different peoples have different general characteristics and abilities. Get over it.

estiv said...

That evil old prune would do good to find better things to do with his remaining brain cells...

Nice job with the age discrimination, lynn.

Or to drop the sarcasm: if you are not against all prejudice, then you are a hypocrite, like Rush Limbaugh.

Anonymous said...

I agree with estiv. The irony and possible hypocrisy of being against one kind of prejudice while displaying another is interesting. Many of us, even those of us in groups that are generally the object of prejudice, may not realize our own less obvious biases. The people behind this site do research on hidden biases (they call them "divergences") and offer online tests you can take to examine your own:

I, who like to consider myself without prejudice, was surprised to discover via one of their exams the bias I definitely have because I am also the object of it.

Re Watson, it's sad that he's had to go to such lengths to try to assuage his apparent feelings of inferiority.

John B. said...

The thing is Dr. Watson passed his expiration date long ago, so why anybody pays attention to what he says mystifies me.

I actually met the man twelve years ago (he and my grandfather were colleagues at Caltech in the late '40s). We had a pleasant conversation about various things, among them Stephen Jay Gould, about whom he was somewhat disparaging.

Hats off to the guy for his groundbreaking discovery, but that was more than 50 years ago. Sentiments about black people such as those he expresses are not that rare among guys his age.

estiv said...

An update on this story:

"James Watson Retires After Racial Remarks"

Story in the NYTimes. I couldn't get a link to work, but it's on the Web site front page for 10/25/07.