“I agree with Dr. Watson”

Is the title of an editorial (alternate link) written by Nigerian Idang Alibi in response to the comments attributed to famous geneticist James Watson (blogged about it here).

Needless to say, I was somewhat shocked by the title of the column and even more so with its content.

For example,

Since then (Watson’s comments being made public), some of us cannot hear anything else but the outrage of black people who feel demeaned by what Watson has said. So many people have called the man names. To be expected, some have said he is a racist. Some even wonder how a “foolish” man like Watson could have won the Nobel Prize. Even white people who, deep in their heart, agree with Watson want to be politically, correct so they condemn the man.

Any truth to that last sentence? It would be interesting to know the stats on this group of people.

The following would brand Mr. Alibi a racist if he weren’t a black man,

But I do know that in terms of organising society for the benefit of the people living in it, we blacks have not shown any intelligence in that direction at all. I am so ashamed of this and sometimes feel that I ought to have belonged to another race.

The following would draw the righteous indignation of Al, Jesse and Quanell, and of course, the politically correct whites Alibi mentioned in the opening,

Anywhere in the world today where you have a concentration of black people among other races, the poorest, the least educated, the least achieving, and the most violent group among those races will be the blacks. When indices of underdevelopment are given, black people and countries are sure to occupy the bottom of the ladder. If we are intelligent, why do we not carry first when statistics of development are given?

In a moment of honest reflection Idang lets it out,

As I write this, I do so with great pains in my heart because I know that God has given intelligence in equal measure to all his children irrespective of the colour of their skin. The problem with us black people is that we have refused to use our intelligence to organise ourselves socially and politically.

Couldn’t agree more with this paragraph in regards to what he says about God giving his children intelligence.

As to the latter part of the paragraph, he has a point. So long as demagogues like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Quanell X keep telling their community (and they in turn listen to them) that their internal problems are always someone else’s fault, black people in America will sacrifice their God-given intelligence at the altar of victimhood.

[On a related note, Dr. James Watson resigned from his position of Chancellor of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, so I guess he did get Carleton S. Coon’ed.]

15 Responses to “I agree with Dr. Watson”

  1. Jamelle says:

    I don’t understand why it’s so difficult to “get” that institutional racism exists. You’re not blaming someone else if you acknowledge that 300+ years of slavery and government enforced apartheid have had significant effects on the present situation of African-Americans.

    I don’t understand why that’s so controversial.

  2. Laz says:

    You have stated facts (300+years of slavery and government enforced apartheid) but as to how much of an effect well that is in the realm of opinion.

    I’ll grant you that there is still institutional racism (of course not to the degree as in the past), but what good does dwelling on the past accomplish? What good is it to follow people (Sharpton et al.) whose livelihood depends on keeping people living in the past, keeping them teetering on the brink of outrage until the next racial brushfire (perceived or otherwise) arises?

    As a Mexican, what good is it for me to be embittered that my country practically gave away Cali, Texas, etc? What good is it for me to dwell on what racists think of my country, culture, language? Let them think what they want, I for one, choose to believe what God says on our equality over what ignorant people choose to believe.

    Did you read Mr. Alibi’s column in its entirety? If so, what did you think? Thank you for your input.

  3. Jamelle says:

    I’m not saying that individuals shouldn’t work hard and shouldn’t do their best; but it’s silly to pretend that the racism that still permeates the structures of this society (and the minds of its citizens) doesn’t have an effect on what people can achieve. It’s dangerously naive to believe that the large percentage of blacks in low-wage jobs is a direct product of some lack of will to work, and not an enforced racially based class system that was only recently lifted.

    Simply ignoring racism (institutionalized or otherwise) isn’t going to help anyone: it only exacerbates the problem. We need individuals who are willing to call out the fact that there are still real inequities that are the result of a long legacy of racism.

    I too believe in the equality of humanity, but all the belief in the world doesn’t change the reality of our society and our structures.

  4. Lance Marchetti says:

    Mr Alibi may have to stand alone now, seeing that Dr. Watson has publicly retracted his statement that started the whole row.
    Here is the report from Fox News:

    Best of luck Mr. Alibi… Dr. Watson will not be supporting your ideologically-based cause. You’re gonna have to go it alone…bummer!

    However, if you really need to dig in the direction Watson was going you’ll have to take the following issue into account.



  5. Zhyrus King says:

    I agree with Watson come on you don’t want your kids on the street acting all ignorant so you have to let them know its only them out there that can control what he/she wants to be in life but at the same time let them know they are just still a small part in human society.

  6. Gerry Porter says:

    Before I launch into this brief essay, let me say that, as far as I know, there are no scientific data to support the following premise. My comments are based on empirical observations only. –JGP

    During the eight or so million years preceding the appearance of Homo sapiens in Africa about 200,000 years ago, the east African climate underwent unprecedented changes from forest to grasslands. The changes were mostly in response to tectonic forces that resulted in the Rift Valley and the associated range of mountains that arose along the western rim of the valley.

    It is generally believed that Homo sapiens evolved in this long series of changing environments – probably from Homo ergaster.

    Beginning about 100,000 years ago, H. sapiens began the first of a series of migration out of Africa. Those that left, the ancestors of all humans outside of Africa, traveled north into the Levant, while others went east into Arabia and Asia, and south into Malaysia, Indonesia, and Australia.

    The environment into which the immigrants moved, particularly those who went north, was dominated by the last ice age. Until about 10,000 years ago, large portions of Earth’s surface, including northern North America, Siberia, and Europe – including the U.K. and Scandinavia – were encased in ice.

    H. sapiens had to learn to live in climates that shifted unpredictably from hostile to benign to everything in between – and then back again. Existing in variable environments places a premium on traits that enhance survival; resourcefulness, resilience, imagination, competence, endurance, and, yes, intelligence. Such traits had to have evolved or our out-of-African ancestors would most likely have gone extinct long ago.

    Those that did not migrate, the ancestors of all Black Africans, have lived in relatively benign unchanging environments during the past 100,000 years and have, as a consequence, changed very little. This is simply because natural selection produces changes only as necessary.

    Notice that I say “changes”, not “improvements”. Organisms change in response to changing environments in accordance with what best serves the organism’s odds of survival. The changed organism is “improved” only in the sense that it is better suited to survive in the new environment.

    In the case of out-of-Africa immigrants, prolonged exposure to changing environments apparently did yield humans whose genetic machinery encoded, bit-by-bit over tens of thousands of years, traits that allowed them to survive the ice age and to take full advantage of the more benign climates that prevailed in Europe and Asia after the ice retreated.

    The rest of this part of the story is, more or less, history.

    Dr. Watson’s comments were, I suggest, based on this his understanding of this geological and climatic chain of events. I certainly don’t believe he was suggesting that intelligence is race-based per se, only that Black Africans were not subjected to the ever changing climates in which the out-of-Africa immigrants survived and, ultimately, thrived. –JGP

  7. Laz says:

    Mr. Porter,
    I thank you for your insight and candor, not to mention the time you obviously put into your essay.

    As an aside to the point of this post, I found your claim that your essay is based on “empirical observation” puzzling given the fact that time travel is not possible, but maybe you know something the rest of us do not.

    Well in a sense, if what you’re saying is true (and let us assume so for the sake of argument) then the descendants of the out of Africa folks became more intelligent than the ones who “stayed home”, no?

    Not only did they become more intelligent, but also more resourceful, resilient, imaginative, competent, and persistent.
    All because of natural selective pressures.

    A personal question might be in order here: in your opinion which type of society is better for the survival of our species: one where the aforementioned traits are enhanced in most (if not all) members or one where these traits went mostly unchanged?

    Last thing, I invite you to check out the quote in the “Quote of the X” page near the top of this blog and tell me how (if at all) Dr. Dawkins’ words mesh with what you have written.

    Thanks for your contribution to the discussion here.

  8. Koos van Rensburg (South Africa) says:

    The attacks aimed at Idang Alibi and Watson is fundamentally what the whole row is about
    We have entered into a discussion whether what Watson said or not said or retracted or what Idang Alibi said in response . . .
    I don’t see any ideas being offered on how to get a struggling race out of its predicament
    To solve a problem u need to understand the problem first
    Criticising those that analyse and voice the problem is not how you solve the problem
    The problem here is not whether or not there are racist in this world and what we should do about them, we already know the answer to that
    The problem is, there are societies out there that stayed behind in their development and no amount of criticism is going to fix it, pulling down those that are more developed is not the way either, becoming developed is not easy, it takes a lot of courage to face the realities and a lot of hard work to rise above your circumstances
    The good news is there a lot of developed people that are prepared to help, the question is how will we treat those developed people that stick around to help?

  9. Gerry Porter says:

    Laz, my “empirical observations” are not, of course, to be taken literally. I base my observations on the consequences, i.e. what the Cro-Magnon people could do by the end of the ice age 10,000 years ago.

    My premise is simple; the people who occupied Europe and Asia during those 900 or so centuries had been quite seriously challenged and the fact that they survived suggests that something positive had happened to them. Plus the fact that, when climatic circumstances permitted, they immediately began farming suggests they had become more resourceful, resilient, imaginative, competent, durable and, yes, intelligence.

    I think it is safe to say that the people who stood on the threshold to the modern world 10,000 years were not the same people who left Africa 100,000 years ago. Same species of course, but different is a number of critical ways. And this is what I mean by “empirical observations”.

    And yes, all this is the result of natural selective pressures. A very simple concept but a very powerful – and mindless – process.

    Your question about which of these two “kinds” of people is most likely to survive is interesting. I think it is apparent that Black Africans are admirably suited to the environments in which they have lived for 200,000 years (several million years if we stretch that heritage back into evolutionary times) and will persist as long as those environments persist.

    But I also think that living is more than merely being alive. H. sapiens has something that no other creature on earth has; self-awareness. The human brain is home to the human mind, an incredible piece of organic engineering that has led us to explore not just the land around us but which has driven us to explore every nook and cranny of the world in which we live, and the terrible vastness of the universe. This drive to explore, discover, and invent is the legacy of the folks who left Africa and never looked back.

    This does not mean that the successors to those ancient migrants – the out-of-Africa folks – are superior to those who stayed home. It merely mean that the migrants were subjected to 900 centuries of selective pressures that the Africans were not and I don’t think anyone who examines the two histories and the two peoples can claim that differences do not exist. And I’m sure it is these two different histories which prompted Dr. Watson’s observation last year.

    Which society will survive? I cannot say since all is governed by probabilities. I do know that humankind, as is indeed all life, is incredibly tenacious and that as long as some members of our species survive, that is, in the long run, what counts.

    I will visit Richard Dawkin’s blog tomorrow.

    Gerry Porter
    Ottawa, Canada

  10. Laz says:

    Thanks for your response. You correctly pointed out that the descendants of the folks who left Africa are not superior to those who stayed. But can you say that they are genetically unequal?

    I cannot help but quote Dr. Watson once more. He said the following to Discover Magazine in the July 2003 issue,

    The luckiest thing that ever happened to me was that my father didn’t believe in God, and so he had no hang-ups about souls. I see ourselves as products of evolution, which itself a great mystery… See the reality is that we are genetically very unequal now

    Theological considerations (or lack thereof) aside, the statement made in ’03 mirrors the more recent statements made by the good doctor. His opinions seem to be based on the model you have set forth here in this thread.

    While I understand that the model set forth is not meant to be “racist” can you at least see why some would see it that way?

    I still fail to see how any of your observations can be “empirical” since you neither observed nor experienced what you are describing.

    Strictly speaking that is what “empirical” means at least according to the dictionary,

    derived from or depending upon experience or observation alone

    Unless you have fished up a plutonium-driven DeLorean from somewhere, I don’t see how you have made any observations that can be truly called “empirical” about the matter at hand.

  11. Gerry Porter says:

    Laz, please don’t get hung up on semantics. I use the word ‘empirical’ to indicate that my comments are not based on scientific studies, but rather on observations and studies of both historical and existing circumstances. While I certainly claim no personal experience in this matter, I do what all curious humans do; I observe, I study, and I learn.

    “Genetically ‘unequal’ “. Some words have baggage (the unintended consequence of normal usage) and ‘equal, equality, inequality, and unequal’ have, in modern times, acquired baggage. To say that, in very general terms, Blacks and Whites are genetically unequal is nowadays to suggest that one is inferior to the other. That is not the intent of scientific investigation nor is it my intent. ‘Inferiority’ is a word used by racists to denigrate ‘others-who-are-different’.

    However, in the same way that one recognizes genetic differences between Whites and Asians, one also recognizes genetic differences between Whites and Blacks. I refer less to the surface differences by which we have generally defined race than to the genetic machinery from which arise characteristics such as art, music, literature, the drive to do science, and those qualities that seems to generate much heated discussion, entrepreneurialism, ambition, and motivation.

    These last three qualities need some historical perspective.

    In the 1776, Scotsman Adam Smith published “The Wealth of Nations” in which he described a compendium of human characteristics and traits that innately contribute to the shape and structure of the human societies in which he lived. He was an astute observer and he recognized that people have a natural desire to improve their lot. He identified this particular trait as greed – one of the seven deadly sins. Give greed a bit of rope, Smith said, and it can be harnessed to create wealth, not just for the ambitious person working to significantly improve his own lot, but to also create wealth for those the entrepreneur must hire to help him realize his goals.

    He also recognized that while this desire is common in most people, it is very strong in some individuals i.e., the highly motivated, and less so in others. Highly motivated and ambitious people often become entrepreneurs.

    From these ideas arose capitalism which, along with the steam engine, lifted Europe out the agrarian age, into the industrial age, and which, ultimately, provided the means for generating great wealth.

    It is that ambition- and entrepreneurial-based wealth that propelled mankind from the agrarian age into the space age in a mere two centuries.

    Which brings us back to a world that is currently upset because one Dr. James Watson, a man – a White guy – who has made noteworthy contributions to 20th century science, stated that Black Africans are less intelligent than non-Africans. I don’t believe (and I have no direct evidence to support my opinion) that Dr. Watson was denigrating Black Africans. I understand he is quite appalled at the idea that his remark was construed as racist. He is a scientist and knows perfectly well that genetic differences are just that; differences that evolved in one group of people that did not evolve in another group of people. That is evolution by natural selection in action. Two significantly different environments yield – after 100,000 years – two slightly different peoples. Although of the same species, one group is characterized by genetic traits that emerged in response to the powerful need to survive in particularly challenging environments. The other group faced no such environmental challenges and thus retain more or less the same genes with which they were endowed 200,000 years earlier.

    And yes I can understand why most people would consider Dr. Watson’s remark to be racist. Many White people see it as racist because they are imbued with White guilt and are ready to bludgeon anyone who threatens their sullen world. Others are openly racist and are ready to accept any bit of ‘evidence’ that seems to support their toxic prejudices. Many Blacks are angry because no one likes the idea that they belong to a group of people who are not as intelligent as another group – particularly if it is a White guy who says it.

    Then there are the thoughtful folks, Black, White and Asian, who recognize the differences and who put the differences into historical perspective.

    One thing that we must remember; the differences we discuss do not apply to every individual in a ‘racial’ group. All Whites are not intelligent nor are all Blacks less intelligent. If you put two bell curves – one a measure of Black intelligence and the other a measure of White intelligence – side by side, they would overlap by perhaps as much as 99.9%. The tiny difference in peaks is all it takes to make a difference. That difference arose because the one group was exposed to significantly harsher environments over a very long time.

    No one is to blame; it is, very simply, the way evolution works – and indeed has worked for nearly four billions years.

    If you like, we can pursue Dr. Watson’s comment on religion another time.

    Gerry Porter
    Ottawa, Canada

  12. Simon Binda, South Africa says:

    The evolution of life has moulded H. sapiens into many shapes, colours and physical attributes.

    The North African (Kenyan) countries are touted as having genetically gifted long distance runners.

    The New Zealand rugby team have their Polynesian brothers from Samoa to thank for their massive backline players.

    The east European athletes win the world strongest man competition every year.

    All of these sporting disciplines are played by many different races and most athletes train equally hard. The difference is that the genetic potential of some athletes is geared to that particular sport. The Kenyan is slight of build, long of leg & has very little body mass. Very few of these physical attributes are shared by Samoan athletes as they are large boned, muscular and have a large body mass.

    These physical “gifts” are thanks to the genetic moulding and shaping of their forefathers. These differences are celebrated as they are all positive and very PC.

    The assumption that this moulding/casting of the H. sapiens is limited to certain organs, but has no bearing on the brain, is intellectually naive. Why would one believe this genetic moulding only applies to organs from the neck – down?

  13. Koos van Rensburg (South Africa) says:

    well said Simon !!!
    but talk like that can get you into KAK with some racists, and yes racists comes in all colours
    I am a White African and a Boer, and I am proud of it, I will be here for a while, maybe I can stay alive long enough to make a difference . . .

  14. Laz says:

    So do you saying that some human groups should just accept the “fact” that evolution has not given them the same mental abilities as other groups?

    Simon and Koos,
    What are your thoughts on apartheid?

  15. Koos van Rensburg (South Africa) says:

    “When u want to hit a dog you will easily find a stick”
    The word Apartheid was an easy stick
    I grew up on a farm, my daily friends were black
    My dad said (in a somewhat racist community) he would any day rather work with a good black man than a white punk
    He taught me to respect people for who they are and what they do and not for their skin color
    a lot of my friends grew up with the same sentiments
    When I went to the Army for two years, we did not hunt black people, we hunted terrorists
    Terrorists that would plant bombs in supermarkets and train/bus stations – does this sound familiar?
    I am sure a lot of Brits and Yankees are accused of racism, in Iraq and where-ever they do service
    Well, I don’t want to take on the subject of racism or perceived racism, but the term apartheid got all tangled up with racism
    I am glad we finally got rid of apartheid, what ever it was, what ever its intended use . . .
    Finally, nobody can hide behind it any more, now it is Affirmative Action and Black Empowerment
    I feel sorry for the educated, hard working, well intension black man here today, they will carry the burden of Affirmative Action and Black Empowerment somewhere in the future

    Laz –
    The short answer:
    Apartheid = Overrated and abused crap

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