Nick wrote:..so please advise if I have got the wrong end of the stick. Are you suggesting that researching intelligence should be illegal?
Hi yes, sorry that’s not what I was trying to say. My basic point is that I can’t vote in your poll on whether Watson’s are illegitimate, because I don’t think it’s a meaningful question. I think his views are legitimate, meaning that he’s free to hold them if he wants, but they are also wrong. Also, they are so profoundly wrong and essentially racist that it means that his position as Chancellor of Cold Spring Harbor is untenable.
I understand what you mean by ‘administrator’ and yes, I am happy with your definition, but do you not credit him with any worth as a scientist?
Certainly yes – he’s done some good science in his time (more than I have…). But my point was he was sacked from an administrator post, not a scientist post. If he was sacked from a scientific post for expressing unpleasant views then I would be with you shoulder to shoulder in expressing outrage. But he was sacked from an administrator post, which I think is perfectly reasonable. Scientists and independent individuals should be free to say whatever they like. But Chancellors are not – and for good reason.
should he have said something he doesn’t believe in order to keep his job?
Nobody made him go on a lecture tour and spout off on the subject. It’s his choice to say whatever he likes, but there are some things which are not compatible with holding the post of chancellor. CSH needs to have someone as chancellor who represents them.
There will always be problems with quantifying such a slippery customer as ‘IQ’, but science should try … Maybe we should use a different word to ‘race’, but are you really saying there is no way or reason to classify people into related groups, who share common characteristics or genetics? … As for the Flynn effect, I’m sure that’s true. But statistical analysis can take that into account when reaching conclusions.
There’s a lot of research on intelligence – the problem is that there is no one measure. You can’t line people up in order of intelligence (even in theory). Same as with athletic ability – both David Beckham and Anna Kournikova are great athletes, but who is better? It’s a meaningless question. Different people are good at different things.
You can classify people genetically in all sorts of ways. But there is no genetic test that can reliably place an individual in one race or another. You can’t go from population statistics to individuals like that. Then – and particularly telling – there is more genetic diversity in Africa than in the rest of the world put together. The idea that ‘African’ is a race from a genetic standpoint is crazy! What’s basically happened here is that people are trying to justify old-fashioned racist concepts (i.e. people with black skin are degenerate) with genetic terminology. In fact, skin colour is an epiphenomenon that tells you virtually nothing about genetic heritage.
And finally, regarding nature vs nurture. In theory you can account for it but in practice it’s impossible, because an individual’s environment is dictated by their skin colour – e.g. you can’t transplant a black baby into a white household and expect that it will be treated like all other kids when growing up.
So in summary. Intelligence is a huge, complicated subject – not the simple one that some people would like to believe. Race, too, is meaningless in the terms that it is used in this debate (different samples of individuals have different frequencies of genes, but all samples overlap and there is no such thing as a ‘pure’ race). And the environmental effects are so profound and so pervasive that it’s impossible to confidently remove them from the analysis.
I have no doubt that genes contribute to intelligence, and that gene frequencies differ throughout the world. But I have seen no evidence to justify the claim that skin colour is linked to intelligence, and in fact I find the question frustrating naive!