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.

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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Watson had saved from ruin and built into a leader in biological research, took away his administrative duties and rescinded his status as chancellor.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.”

  • It is ironic that James Watson would have racist views when the discovery of the alpha helix structure was made by an African-American physicist named Herman Branson. Branson discovered the structure using X-ray crystallography while working in the laboratory of Linus Pauling. Below is a description of that work from Wikipedia. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herman_Branson),

    “In 1948, Branson took a leave and spent time at the California Institute of Technology, in the laboratory of the chemist Linus Pauling. There he was assigned work on the structure of proteins, specifically to use his mathematical abilities to determine possible helical structures that would fit both the available X-ray crystallography data and a set of chemical restrictions outlined by Pauling. After some months of work, Branson handed in a report narrowing the possible structures to two helices: a tighter coil Pauling termed “alpha,” and a looser helix called “gamma.” Branson then returned to Howard to work on other projects.”

    The article goes on to describe the failure to recognize his contribution, “In 1984 Branson wrote Pauling biographers Victor and Mildred Goertzel implying that his contribution to the alpha helix had been greater than the final paper indicated. “I took my work to Pauling who told me that he thought they [the proposed alpha and gamma helixes] were too tight, that he thought that a protein molecule should have a much larger radius so that water molecules could fit down inside and cause the protein to swell,” he wrote. “I went back and worked unsuccessfully to find such a structure.” When he received Pauling’s note with the draft manuscript, Branson wrote, “I interpreted this letter as establishing that the alpha and gamma in my paper were correct and that the subsequent work done was cleaning up or verifying. The differences were nil.” He added in his letter to the Goertzel’s that he “resented” the later attention lavished on Pauling and Corey.”

    Without knowledge of the alpha helix discovered by Branson there would not have been any basis for Watson and Crick to conclude that DNA is a double alpha helix that led to their Nobel Prize.

    Cuthbert Simpkins MD

  • 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.

    nontheless, Watson statements are not about mission, values and “policies” … but about science. That’s what’s happing to science academy nowadays … stay in line with policies and (leftist/marxist) values and you are gooood fellow a you would have a lot of grants and titles.

    West is doomed.

  • Disclaimer: I had a poor opinion of Watson since well before this row

    I wonder if he would have implied as well that Asians are more intelligent than Caucasians (I am assuming using the same metrics, and speaking population wise), he would be still labeled as racist.
    Science always stops being evidence based facts, anytime it is uncomfortable in the eyes of political/social correctness

  • He is a demented old fart but ….
    Curiously, no one gets outraged when someone makes racists claims that people of African descent are athletically superior, claim being supported by empirical evidence, and speaking population wise.
    Science always stops being evidence based facts, anytime it becomes uncomfortable, in the eyes of political/social “correctness”

    • Lots of people get upset about that. Physicality has been used to justify slavery, to negate intellect, dehumanize black people as different from “normal” human beings (“they” jump higher because they have extra muscles and tendons), and decades ago, the story was that people of African descent lack the ability to compete athletically because of their genetic inferiority.

  • This comment section lamentably demonstrates the teeming pile of garbage that comes out of the woodwork when some celebrity scientist like Watson goes on to spout his vile racist views. Interesting to see the commitment that self-deluded people with no understanding of science, intelligence, or race speak so confidently about all such things to demand their intrinsic superiority over other people.

    CSHL made the only decent choice to strip that fallen icon of his remaining distinctions. Watson can join J. Marion Sims (the touted “father of modern gynecology”, who experimented on female slaves without anesthesia) as disgraced figures who despite their achievements deserve no acclaim.

    • Typical racist hatemonger: using a few big words they find from linked Stormfront pseudoscience articles and trolling internet comment sections to spread their ren.

      False assumptions based on loose premises don’t inspire refutation. The Flynn effect (despite what the racists here love to deny) shows average world IQ to have increas

    • The Flynn effect (despite what the racists here love to deny) shows average world IQ to have increased by more than 30 points in the decades within the 1900s. That would put people like your grandfather at an IQ of around 70, the number assigned to the level of intellectual disability (such as those Down Syndrome) on today’s re-normed IQ scale.
      Most freethinking, rational people would conclude that this casts a lot of doubt on the methodology, if not the whole field altogether, touting to link IQ measurements to intelligence. And yet racists insist on giving credence to the authority of these numbers as if they were absolute measurements of intelligence (without fully fleshing out what “intelligence” even means):

      https://www.americanscientist.org/article/the-domestication-of-the-savage-mind

      Conclusion: pseudoscience

    • Well Ed, if you called it pseudoscience then I’m sure it’s so. And yes, you’re right, the Flynn effect indeed shows that IQ has increased in a linear fashion since the early 1900s, however you numbers are (intentionally) wrong. It hasn’t increased by 30 points, but around 14. This sort of misinformation you’re peddling proves, as if necessary, that you lack the ability to do basic research on a scientific topic.

    • Really?
      https://reason.com/blog/2015/06/01/average-iq-scores-have-risen-30-points-d

      Which one of us here has no capacity to do a basic Google search? Seems that your racist hatred has blinded you to more than just your own deficiencies (so much that you rely on dehumanizing other groups of people to realize your own worth), and it’s also taking a toll on your ability to glean the basics of this (pseudo)scientific issue.

      I challenge you to introspect and re-asses your life, and consider how much of a tool you’re being

    • Ed, I was obviously referring to the original Flynn paper (Flynn, 1984) which measured the increase in IQ between 1932 and 1978 at 14 points (13.8 to be precise). But ok, if you want to extrapolate to before 1932 for which there is no data, be my guest.
      Moreover, although there is some debate as to corrections of IQ testing with the date of test, there is absolutely no debate as to the existence of the Flynn effect itself (see the meta-review by Trahan et al, 2014). That is to say, although the magnitude of increase can be *somewhat* debated, the increase itself cannot.

      That being said, discussions around the Flynn effect have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Asians outperform Caucasians, which outperform Blacks (on average) since the dawn of IQ testing itself. You can ad hominem away as much as you please and froth at the mouth with baseless racism accusations, you still won’t change that scientific fact.
      Lastly, differences in IQ aren’t “dehumanizing” anyone. I don’t feel dehumanized by Asians outperforming me in math, nor do I feel dehumanized by Blacks outperforming me in sports. What chip do you have on your shoulder and what skeletons in your closet, Ed?

  • To: Johan

    Your comments are very malicious and your attitude is very disrespectful. I referred specifically to the Egyptian architects of the pyramids, in fact of some of the Egyptian architects were protrayed in effigies and statues which are in the Cairo Museum and they were dark skinned and they were African.

    Dr. Margo Carrancejie

    • @ Dr. Margo Carrancejie of Anderson, Indiana

      The claim that the pyramids were designed by blacks is laughable and at odds with all legitimate scholarship. The architect of Giza is well know to history; he was named Hemiunu, was a native-born Egyptian (which is to say, not black), and a member of the Egyptian royal family. This is a settled, indisputable historical fact, your personal interpretation of an “Egyptian effigy” not withstanding.

      Further, even if a black had designed the pyramids, how is that anecdote relevant to a century’s worth of psychometric and genetic data? You’re a physician and you don’t know the difference between anecdote and data? If I were one of your patients in Anderson, Indiana, I’d be very concerned about the quality of care I was receiving.

  • Once again science has been used in the most ridiculous way to justify the barbarity of the white.
    History is a testament to us that how a reputed journal in 19th century America tried to justify the slavery of blacks by saying that “Blacks need to be whipped by the white as they have in their unconscious a tendency to runaway from their white masters, so whipping leads to the EXORCISM of that unconscious desire.
    The icing on the cake is a term was coined for this complex which was DRAPERTOMANIA.
    Kipling had long been dead but how generously the white man is shouldering the BURDEN of pan continental didactic lessons of morality and civilisation.
    Long Live Champagne Socialists.

    • Except science, in this case, finds the average IQ of whites to be below the average IQ of East Asians and Ashkenazi Jews. So your whole white supremacist conspiracy theory goes out the window.

  • Even with scientific proof, liberals and social justice warriors STILL get upset and demand everyone buy their anti-white-feel-good about everyone else agenda. You only need to visit a slum/ghetto or prison to know that blacks are generally (there are exceptions) of lesser intelligence genetically. It’s not racism, it’s science.

    • The opinion of James Watson does not equal “scientific proof”. Biologically race is largely a subjective social categorization and mostly meaningless in classifying genetics. There is more variation between people of the same “race” than there is between races. There is a general correlation between IQ scores and how developed a nation is and the Flynn effect shows a closing gap between races in the same or similar environment. A typical African-American today is likely to have a higher IQ than typical whites of Watson’s generation. Watson is an old man and the decay you see happening to his external appearance is also happening internally to his brain. His best days are long behind him.

    • @ThatGuy, yeah, no. 1) It’s not as much the opinion of James Watson as the scientific consensus in the field of intelligence studies; 2) there is absolutely no agreement that the Flynn effect shows a closing gap between races, it merely suggests that IF (and only if) the linear intelligence increase of developed nations has slowed down, underdeveloped nations MAY be able to catch up; 3) your comparison between past days Caucasians and present day Africans is fallacious as it disregards the exact Flynn effect you were invoking previously. Comparisons are done using statistically comparable populations.

  • Politically Correct === Scientifically Incorrect. Stillman and Simons should not be running a scientific institution.

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