Ninety-year-old Nobel Prize-winning scientist James Watson has been stripped of his honorary titles by a leading American research institution, after doubling down on his controversial conclusions linking race and intelligence.
Despite nearly half a century service to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), Watson, a world-renowned geneticist, lost all of his honorary titles of Chancellor Emeritus, Oliver R. Grace Professor Emeritus and Honorary Trustee, for refusing to retract his own scientific conclusions.
In 2007, Watson was suspended from all of his positions held at the New York lab following a scandal centering around his claim about the “inherently gloomy” future of the African continent. “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 Times newspaper at the time.
While having initially issued an apology for his comments, allowing him to maintain his honorary titles at the CSHL, when asked more than a decade later whether his views about race and intelligence have changed, he told the PBS documentary they haven’t.
“Not at all. I would like for them to have changed, that there be new knowledge that says that your nurture is much more important than nature,” the scientist was quoted as saying in a recently previewed PBS documentary, titled American Masters: Decoding Watson. “There’s a difference on the average between blacks and whites on IQ tests. I would say the difference is, it’s genetic.”
CSHL found Watson’s newly voiced comments “reprehensible” and completely unsupported by science. After “unequivocally” rejecting Watson’s “unsubstantiated and reckless” opinions, the Laboratory stripped the 90-year-old scientist of all of his titles, noting that the institution “condemns the misuse of science to justify prejudice.”
Watson rose to international scientific fame in 1953 after helping discover DNA’s double helix structure with fellow geneticists Maurice Wilkins and Francis Crick. In 1962, the team was awarded a Nobel Prize in Physiology “for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material.” In 1968 Watson began serving as director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, subsequently assuming the roles of president and chancellor, before being suspended and retiring from the research lab in 2007.