The lab that James Watson led for decades has stripped the Nobel laureate of his last remaining honorary positions, it announced on Friday, in reaction to Watson’s refusal (in a recent documentary) to take back statements widely regarded as racist.

In a statement, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s CEO Bruce Stillman and the chair of its board of trustees Marilyn Simons said the lab “unequivocally rejects the unsubstantiated and reckless personal opinions Dr. James D. Watson expressed on the subject of ethnicity and genetics” in the PBS documentary. The statements “are reprehensible, unsupported by science, and in no way represent the views of CSHL, its trustees, faculty, staff, or students. The Laboratory condemns the misuse of science to justify prejudice.”

It added that the statements “are completely and utterly incompatible with our mission, values, and policies, and require the severing of any remaining vestiges of his involvement” in the lab.

advertisement

The director of the documentary, which aired last week as part of the PBS “American Masters” series, asked Watson if he had changed his mind about his previous statements and writings on race and intelligence, which boil down to the claim that Africans and people of African descent have lower intelligence than other groups because of genetics. Watson declined that lifeline.

When Watson, co-discoverer with Francis Crick of DNA’s double helix structure, first made the offensive (and scientifically baseless) statements in 2007, CSHL, which Watson had saved from ruin and built into a leader in biological research, took away his administrative duties and rescinded his status as chancellor. In its latest step, it revoked his honorary titles of chancellor emeritus, Oliver R. Grace Professor Emeritus, and honorary trustee. It did so, the statement said, because Watson’s remarks in the documentary, which was filmed from 2016 to 2018, “effectively reverse the written apology and retraction Dr. Watson made in 2007,” when he expressed remorse for his racist assertions.

“I believe there is very broad support among the faculty for the multiple steps that CSHL is taking in response to Watson’s horrific comments,” CSHL biologist Justin Kinney, who has been a vocal critic of those comments, told STAT. “The CSHL administration has been very proactive on this matter, seeking input from all of us as well as from many members of the broader scientific community.”

Stillman’s and Simons’ statement added that the lab “acknowledges and appreciates Dr. Watson’s substantial scientific legacy, including his role as founding director of the Human Genome Project.”

Watson, 90, was seriously injured in a car accident last year, and since then had been hospitalized for several weeks and then admitted to a skilled nursing facility. Asked whether Watson or his family had been informed of the actions ahead of time, lab spokeswoman Dagnia Zeidlickis did not reply directly, but said there were “no surprises for anyone.”

  • How sad that institutions like CSHL need to lie to save their ass, while only retired scientists can still speak about science. This is the result of political correctness.

  • This is clear, unscientific, persecution of a great mind. Today’s so-called “scientists” are just political and social lackeys for the liberal establishment, not scientists looking for truth. They will be seen as FOOLs by future generations.

  • Toe the Party Line of else.
    Reminiscent of a friend who lived through the Moist Revolution, she suffered a nervous breakdown never knowing if something she said might offend.
    Stop this insanity now…or your day will come, denounced and defamed.

  • Very soon, entire fields of study will be deemed, “racist” and prohibited. We are on the verge of a new Dark Age; the first was perpetrated by superstition, and the second will be committed by social ideologues like the author and her fellow confederates currently strangling academia and other institutions of cultural influence. Thankfully, like the first, we will emerge from its sequel and enter a new age of reason, determined never to repeat the same mistakes and resolved to punish those responsible for their crimes against progress.

  • “When Watson, co-discoverer with Francis Crick of DNA’s double helix structure, first made the offensive (and scientifically baseless) statements in 2007”

    Yeah, but there IS scientific evidence that supports his statements – they aren’t “baseless.” Numerous psychometric and genetic studies conducted by legitimate institutions of learning by respected research scientists have all come to the same conclusion that affirms: 1) intelligence is heritable and; 2) at least 50% (this number continues to climb with each new study) of one’s intelligence is determined by genetics. Talk about, “science denier” – you’re either ignorant of the science, or willfully ignorant of the science.

    • You don’t know what “heritable” means, you whiny racist. And the heritability of intelligence has nothing to do with Watson’s claims, NonSequiturMan.

  • Sharon, don’t let the cockroaches crawling out of the muck get you down. You forgot to give them a trigger warning. They will leave when they see the next shiny new insult to white masculine hegemony.
    As an MD, I couldn’t do anything productive without the valuable contributions of bachelor level scientists and analysts. The cockroaches like to make ad hominem attacks when their fragile homeostasis is threatened.
    Carry on!

    • Irony (noun): Accusing others of ad hominems while making an ad hominem. Care to refute the “cockroaches'” arguments instead of calling them names?

    • @Bill Grant
      That’s REVEREND AntiPope. Of the Church of the Subgenius.
      I shed light on scientific heretics who use poor quality studies to push a bigoted agenda.
      I also perform budgie (and human) weddings for a negotiable fee.

  • A study of the IQ of various racial groups came up with the following results:-
    Orientals 105
    Europeans 97
    American Indians 90
    Southeast Asians 87
    Afro-Americans 85
    Pacific Islanders 85
    South Asians 85
    North Asians 84
    Sub-Saharan Africans 70
    Australian Aborigines 62

    There is nothing remotely ‘racist’ or ‘odious’ about this, facts are facts. If you do not like them, that is your problem; if you do not like those who expound the facts, do not engage in ad hominem attacks – that just makes you a bigot.

    • A numerous studies has shown, IQ scores do not measure mental capacity in any way. What they capture is more socio-economic background, in essence experience and exposure to the types of questions asked in an IQ test. If you were not taught to the sort of ‘language’ used in a test, of course you won’t do well. They do not reflect in any way cognitive ability. So while those numbers do reflect something, it isn’t intelligence (which in itself is a highly problematic concept to define).

    • @observer

      the current scientific consensus is that IQ is at least 50% genetic, and is highly predictive of a range of life outcomes for everyone

      but that goes against your moral system, so like any religious fundamentalist, you imagine that the science must support your flawless belief system.

      The political left long ago became fanatically hostile to many key areas of science.

    • @ Observer

      “A numerous studies has shown, IQ scores do not measure mental capacity in any way. What they capture is more socio-economic background, in essence experience and exposure to the types of questions asked in an IQ test. ”

      Care to list those studies?

      It’s very clear what’s happening here; Dr. Watson’s research – not his statements – has simply uncovered a very inconvenient empirical reality, and so the left’s intellectually intolerant science deniers are attacking the man to destroy the science. Mark my words: There will come a time – very soon – when genetics will be declared a “racist” discipline and banned from western scientific study.

    • LoL silly rabbit we AFRICANS are smarter than any ethnic group think about it every invention know too man was created by a BLACK MAN. What has a white man invented nothing but he has stolen and lied about everything too make white America look good.

  • Watched the PBS documentary. Was entertaining until the smear Watson segment. Disappointing to see his former friends and colleagues so readily capitulate to the powers that be to disavow him. Shameful and cowardly but necessary for their own survival. Chilling to watch. Stalin would likely be proud to see his brutal legacy persists.

  • Even if his statement isn’t based on science (which I don’t see how it’s not, if anything is based on certain studies that not everybody agrees with), it’s really something when you can only be racist against minorities, and not the other way around.

    Political correctness has gone too far. Not even a Noble prize is immune..?

Comments are closed.

Sign up for our Daily Recap newsletter

A roundup of STAT’s top stories of the day in science and medicine

Privacy Policy