...and quite frankly I am pretty pissed off that his lectures have been cancelled. James Watson, Nobel Prize winner and cofounder of the structure of DNA told the Times of London that "there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically." So guess what? Most venues hosting Watson have decided to cancel his forthcoming public engagement talks.
Unfortunately such comments have often been made by Watson and while I don’t agree with him, I certainly defend his freedom of expression. I also don’t think he has a special ‘responsibility’ being a Nobel Prize scientists to censor himself. It is unfortunate that a man with so much knowledge and experience is drawing such conclusions but sweeping his remarks under the rug doesn’t help people. The organizers of events across the country are sticking their heads in the sand. By canceling these talks and making the decision that we shouldn’t be subject to his perspectives, they have denied us the opportunity to see a great scientist and to question him on his views.
Do we discard the great contributions of scientists, politicians, artists, because of their views? Clearly we haven’t. Personally I admire the work of Marie Stopes, known for her contributions to palaeobotany and advancement of women’s issues, but often not remembered for her views on race and eugenics. Another big contributor to my field of work was Swiss-American zoologist and geologist, Louis Agassiz who is known in other circles for his perspectives on racism and eugenics. Sir Winston Churchill, a man who was once chancellor of my own university and also who lent his name to my secondary school, was very vocal about his views on sex, race and the mentally disabled.
Unfortunately, an easy scapegoat has been made of Watson. The man’s contributions to science are a different matter than his personal views. If you’re on facebook and feel strongly about this issue, The Ministry of Love (a reference to Orwell’s 1984), is a group formed in protest of canceling Watson’s lectures.