Friday, October 19, 2007

James Watson

I am delighted to see James Watson is in trouble again. He was offered to me as an interview in connection with his book Avoid Boring People (no link, I don't want you to buy it); I declined on the basis that one possible title for my own memoirs was Avoid James Watson. My own dealings with him - too boring to recount - convinced me this was a petulant little man, best avoided at all costs. He's now saying blacks do worse in IQ tests, which is true. It doesn't mean they are less intelligent as IQ tests are highly culturally determined. Blacks brought up in societies which value IQ tests - and which don't confine them to ghettos - do as well as anybody else. Lots of people deny this, but I'm afraid the evidence is against them. When I spoke to Watson we discussed the kind of choices that would be offered to people as a result of our genetic knowledge - for example, he thought the prenatal detection of homosexuality meant that most parents would abort any gay child. What effect would that have on society? He thought for a moment and then said, 'Less ballet.' This may be a harmless joke in the pub but, when you are a public figure with a tape recorder running, it's just nasty. Watson is arrogant enough to think it doesn't matter.
PS. The subject of Watson came up a few years ago when I was talking to some academics. They all murmured, 'Wonderful man, great men.' I said, 'No, he's not and you know it.' At once they agreed and a torrent of Watson horror stories emerged.

29 comments:

  1. Well said, Bryan. Funnily enough, when I first noted that his comments were taken from an "interview with the Sunday Times", I did wonder whether you had been wielding the dictaphone of truth. I'll happily settle for the blog of truth, instead.

    But was that absurd, attention-seeking moron, Keith Vaz, really the best person The Times could find to call upon for an initial reaction?

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  2. I wouldn't have worried about the link, the surest way to stop people buying the book is to show them an excerpt. Assuming that the title means he intended to avoid boring his readers, he fails.

    the Dictaphone of Truth - now there's an idea for a podcast...

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  3. The worrying aspect of this story is your report of the Academics. Their reaction smacks of fear and uncertainty, whether of you or otherwise. It is a situation which is in no way desirable. One of their functions is to exactly slice and display the stupidity of some positions. While, as to the links, put em in, don't put em in, mostly I find it a little amusing that on my Bzr they come up in red.

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  4. >> I said, 'No, he's not and you know it.' At once they agreed and a torrent of Watson horror stories emerged.<<

    Nice HIT piece, ive never meet a nice gifted intellectual yet (maybe its in their genes?)

    And his work and the work on IQ is incorrect because? It seems as the results dont fit your paradigm, then call foul on the experiment.

    The whole problem with this debate is that we think of "race" in the same context as we think of tribes, which it is not, a better classification would be "poles", I am nearer to the Caucasians pole than the African one.

    The other fact is most gifted and intelligent black people from Africa leave. Why?

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  5. My son, 13, was reading "The Dangerous Book for Boys" last night. At one point he turned to me and asked, "If someone is 'feckless,' does that mean they don't give a feck?"

    I think I've taken him to see too many Martin McDonagh plays.

    By the way, a nice portrait of Mr. Watson in "Girl, Interrupted." He tried to spring the author from an insane asylum outside of Boston. Don't beat up the guy who gave us the double helix -- it was Crick who was the creep!

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  6. "Blacks brought up in societies which value IQ tests - and which don't confine them to ghettos - do as well as anybody else"

    I am sure they do, but I'm not certain that this clinches the argument. Nor do I make any apology for treating Blacks as equals, but patronising them the way Brian does is not only hurtful but plainly idiotic. Although my knowledge of such matters is less than minimal, and I haven’t a clue who comes out on top intellectually, even I know that races - inasmuch as human beings are genetically resistant to schemes of social engineering - are distinguished by diversity, not by what they have in common. And to claim that all races must be equally intelligent is to institute a deep and confused hypocrisy!

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  7. Patronising! I am saying IQ tests donàt measure intelligence. There may be intellectual diversity but we dont know what it is. Think about it.

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  8. Selena - why would anyone expect you to apoligise for treating blacks as equals?

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  9. ...that's because of political incorrectness gone mad!

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  10. The "less ballet" comment was funny, public or private. Last time I checked jokes were inherently slightly offensive? In fact, isn't the tagline of YOUR blog all about "imaginary ideas" and "interminable jokes"? Your imagined utopia is boring--more Watson says I.

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  11. "Avoid Boring People"? Is the word "boring" meant as an adjective or a verb? If it's meant as a verb then I really don't give a hoot because I have never cared who I bore. But if it's meant as an adjective then that is a whole different kettle of fish. (Is that actually an expression?)

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  12. The other fact is most gifted and intelligent black people from Africa leave. Why?

    Just a guess, but maybe they don't want to live in a place that is suffering from massive poverty.

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  13. and why do they suffer so much poverty? certainly not a lack of human capital is it, and of course plenty of natural resources...or could it be they dont produce enough intelligent leaders?

    btw you would have thought a clever african would see plenty of potential in their part of the world, or do they know something we dare not know?

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  14. >>I am saying IQ tests donàt measure intelligence.<<

    tell me would you want a life saving operation carried out by a surgeon with an IQ of 145 or one with and IQ of 165 (both with same experience, and I doubt you will find many with an IQ of anything less that 140.)

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  15. As to why Africa suffers from so much poverty, perhaps the lack of education caused by the imperialist enslavers who preferred a population that was uneducated. Perhaps because pro-western military dictatorships were popular with the western democracies during the cold war. Perhaps because the health care situation is so poor that millions of children die every year from disease. But you are a smart, I assume, white guy. Why not take your superior brain to Africa and become ruler of the place? I am sure all those poor darkies would be thrilled to have you show them how to turn Africa into paradise.

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  16. tell me would you want a life saving operation carried out by a surgeon with an IQ of 145 or one with and IQ of 165

    It would never occur to me to worry about the IQ of my surgeon. But if it really worries you, a recent study done for the CBC found that the average surgeon has an IQ of 119.

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  17. Sage King wrote: tell me would you want a life saving operation carried out by a surgeon with an IQ of 145 or one with and IQ of 165

    Ah yes, the old story of the man shot with an arrow who demanded to know who shot it and what village the assailant came from before seeking treatment for the wound. He died. Probably he had a high IQ too.

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  18. Did you ever come acros the notion of colonialism, Sage King. You know, where a land is a attacked and economically raped. I can highly recommend the bookKing Leopold's Ghost where a reign of terror worthy of later more celebeated European based regimes in the Belgian Congo, looked like it might be finally followed by a more enlightened era, when now independent, under the leadership of their first democratically elected prime minister, Patrice Lumumba. However, he wanted his country to be a bit too independent of Western interests, and an alliance of the Belgian and US governments had him assassinated two months into his office, by and to be succeeded by the man who would become the vicious dictator, Mobutu. Of course, an era of immense wealth for Mobutu, and continued economic pillage by the West followed.
    I hope this has helped you understand why, even in the presence of immense natural resources, such places can be so destitute. I highly recommned the linked book; it should prove very enlightening to your impoverised, understanding. No need to thank me for the recommendation. Talk to you when you've read it.

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  19. Sorry about the dodgy grammar. A crime against intelligence with twhich you'll be no doubt familiar. The reign of sadism in the Belgian Congo wasn't the exception to the rule, by the way. As you'll no doubt be the first to admit, when rapacious foriegn governments apparently pull out of these countries which they have enslaved, they don't tend to leave behind places in ideal condition for fair democratic government. No, the succeeding rule tends to mirror the oppression that preceded, and naturally the foreign interests tend to ensure their economic reigns continue, under slightly differnt hues.

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  20. I'm currently reading Arnold Rampersad's biography of Ralph Ellison. America is where you see the great conversion of black IQs and realize just how much an oppressive environment caused the low ones. And still does -- go to our inner cities where there's no hope, but lots of guns and drugs.

    Nature and nurture, yeah. But I'm beginning to think nurture really does play more of a role than scientists want to credit in our era. Intense racism can hold down just about any sense of potential.

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  21. On the subject of James Watson and his comments about abortion and homosexuality, he said recently in an interview with New Scientist that what he meant was that all women wanted grandchildren and therefore would want to abort any homosexual children.

    Ignoring the fact that homosexuality does not necessarily means no parenthood, I wondered exactly where he gets off claiming to speak for all women. Rather like he was claiming to speak for all employers when he said that employers with black employees knew they were less intelligent.

    Clearly the man has an ego enormous enough to think he can speak for non-homogenous groups of billions of people.

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  22. "Blacks brought up in societies which value IQ tests - and which don't confine them to ghettos - do as well as anybody else."

    err, do you mean middle class blacks? If so, how do they stack up against middle class Asians or Anglos? No idea? Neither have i. Why make the point then Bryan?

    What an absurdly patronising remark to make.

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  23. IQ isn't the same as intelligence? Fine; let's hear no more about intelligence, and just talk about IQ. Blacks have lower IQ (on average). But we know they're equally intelligent because of their performance in areas such as nuclear physics, biochemistry, computer science, engineering ... don't we? Hang on, though; IQ tests were discredited as having no relation to real-world performance. But blacks' real-world performance is ... er. Um.

    Can't define who's black? That's all right, because there are lots people who know who's black. They're the people who call themselves black. The people you call black. Does it affect the interpretation of IQ scores? Dunno. Test a bunch of people who call themselves black and compare them with people who call themselves some other racial epithet. Oh, hang on, that's been done. That's how these racial IQ scores get produced. Um.

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  25. Watson's comments are in fact backed up by considerable research. Also, have a read of the Snyderman & Rothman study which was published as "The IQ Controversy". They surveyed over 600 psychologists, behavioural geneticists & found the consensus was that:

    1. IQ is measurable.
    2. It is largely hereditary.
    3. Group differences exist & these are partly genetic.

    They then showed that the media has tried to portray this position as extreme, but it is actually the mainstream academic view. Of course publicly stating this can cost you your career as Watson found out.

    http://www.gnxp.com/blog/2007/10/james-watson-tells-inconvenient-truth_296.php

    Gottfredson, L. S. (2005). What if the hereditarian hypothesis is true? Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 11, 311-319. http://www.udel.edu/educ/gottfredson/reprints/2005hereditarian-hypothesis.pdf

    June 2005 issue of Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Vol. 11, No. 2.

    http://www.udel.edu/educ/gottfredson/30years/Rushton-Jensen30years.pdf

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