DNA pioneer's lecture cancelled after comments on race
A Nobel Prize-winning scientist who reportedly claimed Africans and Europeans had different levels of intelligence is no longer welcome to deliver a lecture at London's Science Museum, the museum said Wednesday.
James Watson, who won the Nobel Prize for co-discovering the double-helix structure of DNA, drew widespread outrage when he told the Sunday Times that Africans and Europeans did not share the same brain power.
The newspaper quoted the 79-year-old American geneticist as saying 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 told the paper he hoped that everyone was equal, but added: "People who have to deal with black employees find this not true."
The comments drew condemnation from British politicians, scientists and equality campaigners. On Wednesday the Independent newspaper put Watson on its front page, against the words: "Africans are less intelligent than westerners, says DNA pioneer."
LondonMayor Ken Livingstone issued a statement Wednesday, calling Watson's statements "racist propaganda masquerading as scientific fact.
"That a man of such academic distinction could make such ignorant comments, which are utterly offensive and incorrect and give succour to the most backward in our society, demonstrates why racism still has to be fought," he said.
The Independent catalogued what it said were a series of controversial statements from Watson, including one in which he reportedly suggested women should have the right to abort their unborn children if tests could determine they would grow into homosexuals.
Watson, who serves as chancellor of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, was due to speak Friday at a sold-out event at the Science Museum, but the institution said Wednesday night that Watson's comments had gone too far and the lecture had been cancelled.
This is not the first time Watson's speaking engagements have caused a stir.
In 2000 Watson shocked an audience at the University of California, Berkeley, when he advanced his theory about a link between skin colour and sex drive.
His lecture, complete with slides of bikini-clad women, argued that extracts of melanin — which give skin its colour — had been found to boost subjects' sex drive.
"That's why you have Latin lovers," he said, according to people who attended the lecture. "You've never heard of an English lover. Only an English patient."
Telephone and e-mail messages left with the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory after business hours Wednesday were not immediately returned.