DNA scientist James Watson stripped of honors

DNA testing

A New York DNA testing laboratory has cut its ties with James Watson, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who helped discover the structure of DNA, over disturbing comments about race and intelligence.

The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) said it was revoking all titles and honors conferred on the 90-year-old scientist, who has led the lab for many years.

A statement from the laboratory’s president Bruce Stillman, and chair of the board of trustees Marilyn Simons, said they “unequivocally reject the unsubstantiated and reckless personal opinions Dr James D. Watson expressed on the subject of ethnicity and genetics. Dr Watson’s 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.”

DNA pioneer

James Watson was one of the researchers who discovered the double helix structure of DNA in 1953 together with Francis Crick, Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins.

In 2007, he was removed as CSHL chancellor after he told the Sunday Times he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says, not really”. He went on further to say that while he wished the races were equal, “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”.

At the time of the initial press interview, Watson apologized; but in a recent documentary aired this month he said his views have not changed.

“Not at all”, he said in the PBS documentary American Masters: Decoding Watson. “I would like for them to have changed, that there be new knowledge that says that your nurture is much more important than nature. But I haven’t seen any knowledge. And there’s a difference on the average between blacks and whites on IQ tests. I would say the difference is, it’s genetic.”

The new documentary was a chance for Watson to redeem his public image and walk back from the offensive comments. But he instead confirmed them – which was apparently the last straw for CSHL.

In response, CSHL said it was revoking Watson’s honorary titles, which include chancellor emeritus, Oliver R. Grace professor emeritus, and honorary trustee. In their joint statement, Simons and Stillman said the lab appreciated his legacy of scientific discoveries and leadership of the institution but could no longer be associated with him. His latest comments effectively reverse the written apology and retraction Dr Watson made in 2007, they said. For information on AlphaBiolabs’ complete range of DNA testing services including paternity and sibling DNA tests, call us now on 727-325-2902 or email us at info@alphabiolabsusa.com.