February 26, 2024

DNA pioneer in hot water again

James Watson, 1962 Nobel laureate for discovering the structure of DNA, has kindled a huge controversy in the UK by making apparently racist remarks in the course of a PR tour for his memoirs. The Science Museum in London has cancelled a sell-out appearance by Watson. It claims that he had gone "beyond the point of acceptable debate" by claiming that black people were less intelligent than white people.

Watson is no stranger to controversy. He is well-known for supporting selective abortions, denigrating a female colleague whose work helped him to win his Nobel, sexist remarks, contempt for "stupid people", support for human reproductive cloning, backing genetic engineering, and so. This time, however, he touched a particularly raw nerve.

A long interview with the Sunday Times included this unnerving paragraph: "He says that he is ‘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’, and I know that this ‘hot potato’ is going to be difficult to address. His hope is that everyone is equal, but he counters that ‘people who have to deal with black employees find this not true’."

Watson will be touring the UK to promote his new book   

Lawsuit filed on behalf of embryo to derail CIRM

Mary Scott Doe, an unborn embryo, is suing the chairman of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine. The lawsuit, brought by Maryland lawyer Martin Palmer, is intended to derail the CIRM’s work. It challenges embryonic stem cell research by alleging that the destruction of human embryos violates the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, which guarantees equal protection under the law, and the 14th Amendment, which bans slavery.

A spokesman for the CIRM called the suit "specious". "Our assumption," he said, "is that someone like this is going to be suing CIRM from now until the project ends. It’s just going to become a routine cost of doing business for us. But we believe we’re on absolute rock solid legal ground."