Still not done with Jimbo…

October 25, 2007

Okay, in my first post on this Watson affair, I was thinking, why pile on this senile old goat for his racist beliefs about the intelligence of an entire continent of people? Do some good locally was my thought. ‘Course I couldn’t help sneaking in another oblique one (Hey, at least it had some science in it!). However a recent comment on Zuska’s post brings me up short:

The sad truth is that for many non-scientists (and most of us are non-scientists), Watson’s–and Rushton’s–statements about race and intelligence have the imprimatur of science. How are we to know the difference?

And that, in a nutshell is the point that I missed. One that PZ Meyers, in an rush of faked up outrage over “academic freedom” missed too. Zuska smacked PZ’s attitude down a bit on the “he’s just an a-hole” thing which is also applicable to my first post and furthers my reconsideration. The above comment reminds me why we do need to pile on this guy. Luckily, he’s just made it easy to do so by pissing me off again.

Watson was “suspended” as Chancellor (but not as faculty) by the Board of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and has now resigned with this letter. Let’s get down to it, shall we?

This morning I have conveyed to the Trustees of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory my desire to retire immediately from my position as its Chancellor, as well as from my position on its Board, on which I have served for the past 43 years. Closer now to 80 than 79, the passing on of my remaining vestiges of leadership is more than overdue. The circumstances in which this transfer is occurring, however, are not those which I could ever have anticipated or desired.

Almost 80 and still “running” CSHL? No crap it is time to retire. A comment over on “The Daily Transcript” nails, and I mean NAILS, it:

I ask all professors and professionals approaching retirement age to consider Watson’s case by bowing out gracefully in a timely manner of your choosing and handing the reigns to the next generation rather than wait for the specter of curmudgeonly senility to take your hard-earned prestige from you. Your pride may hurt you for retiring, but it?ll hurt you a lot more when your colleagues lose their respect for you forever. Apparently, the quenching of a reputation you worked all your life to stoke is just an utterance away.

of course, I wouldn’t be quite so nice about it.

okay, back to the resignation letter:

This week’s events focus me ever more intensely on the moral values passed on to me by my father, whose Watson surname marks his long ago Scots-Irish Appalachian heritage; and by my mother, whose father, Lauchlin Mitchell, came from Glasgow and whose mother, Lizzie Gleason, had parents from Tipperary.

HOOOO-kay then. Let me parse this for you people. “Scots-Irish”, “Glasgow”, “Tipperary”. Why in the flying f*ck do we need to know this information? We get it Jim. You aren’t black. We know this. What are you trying to say here? “Appalachian”. AHA! Now I get it. Obvious enough even for those of us who don’t subscribe to the “Genteel, Intellectualized Supremicist’s Weekly”.

This is the battle cry of the anti-affirmative-action supporter of the “blacks are dumber than whites for genetic reasons” hypothesis. Scratch one and you’ll get this, frequently referring to their own personal background, as with Watson here. I’ll translate for the home reader.

“I belong to a group of whites which has historically been looked down upon by, discriminated against by and suffered hardship under the boot heel of, some other group of whites. Usually those bastards, the British English. Therefore I stand in refutation against every possible bit of evidence that environmental and discriminatory factors might be relevant to group differences in performance found between white and black Americans.”

He’s still at it, even with his resignation letter people.

To my great advantage, their lives were guided by a faith in reason; an honest application of its messages; and for social justice, especially the need for those on top to help care for the less fortunate. As an educator, I have always striven to see that the fruits of the American Dream are available to all.

Really? Harvard! You worked at Harvard and CSHL my man. You are barely an “educator” and any work you did in that regard certainly wasn’t to the ends of “social justice” or “the less fortunate”. So don’t try to claim your ancestors’ alleged qualities as your own. And what is this “available” dodge? What were you doing to make Harvard more accessible to the downtrodden? Anything you can point to there chappie? And so what if you did make the “American Dream” more “available” to the less advantaged? By all accounts of your lecture “style” (including two presentations I’ve heard personally) it would be hard for the female, black, ugly or fat to attend much of your stuff without suffering a few group insults.


Update 10/26/07: Noah Gray of Action Potential on Watson’s Africa comments.

4 Responses to “Still not done with Jimbo…”

  1. Noah Gray Says:

    I agree with all of the statements regarding the less than genuine remorse supposedly put forth in both the apology from last week and with this resignation.

    But just to clarify his “retirement” (as I have an inside connection to CSHL) for your readers – Watson will retain his house on CSHL campus (for which he pays no mortgage or rent; the property and house are likely worth between $3-5 million, based on recent home sales in the vicinity); he retains his office and secretary; and, although confidential, he likely retains much of his salary.

    Therefore, as I posted on my blog, the only thing that will change on the inside is the nameplate on the door, if that. You’ve got to be crazy to think that no one will ever stop by hos office for a little informal advice whenever there is a major labwide decision to be made…


  2. drugmonkey Says:

    Still talking to me, eh, Noah? 🙂

    Yeah, , everybody knows he’s not really being censured in a way that counts. He’s probably relieved at his advanced age to drop whatever responsibilities he actually had as Chancellor. The way it goes, unfortunately. Kinda like white collar criminals who scam retirement funds and excess fees (Enron et al.) off the powerless. Even if convicted do they spend the rest of their lives picking strawberries or some such in grinding poverty and filth? hell no. We scientific peons recognize he isn’t going to pay any lifestyle penalty here. Not even sure he should, myself.

    I just think the real issue here is captured by the above quote from the comment over at Thus Spake Zuska. It is all about appearances. Both within the scientific community and without. The firm statement that if you want to launch certain types of incendiary scientific opinions you had better know what you are talking about. If the percept from Watson’s apparently forced retirement is “He got fired from his job”, well, so much the good even if the reality is more nuanced.


  3. Noah Gray Says:

    Of course I’m still talking to you. Intense disagreement and debate is always fun for me.

    From the many comments that an earlier post of mine produced, I realized that much of the public does not even know that Dr. Watson isn’t actually an expert on this subject. He last published any non-review research article in the early 1990’s and most of his previous work involved the identification of various genetic elements too technical and boring to capture any “newsy” attention. His research never examined the underlying genetics of intelligence, libido, attractiveness, or anything else about which he rants. Therefore, the claim that he is an expert is hardly accurate. This scientist is acclaimed for two reasons: his Nobel-winning discovery in 1953 and his unparalleled fund-raising abilities (obviously, the second extends from the first…). Therefore, when he makes statements that sound like fact, I can’t blame an uneducated public for believing him. His irresponsibility is likely to perpetuate or rejuvenate bigoted ideas in an American public still trying to cope with and learn from the race clashes of the 60’s.


  4. drugmonkey Says:

    “He last published any non-review research article in the early 1990’s and most of his previous work involved the identification of various genetic elements too technical and boring to capture any “newsy” attention.”

    Now this is a theme I’ve seen again and again on the bloggo-comment scene. It boils down to “Well, Watson didn’t really do anything else of specific credit to himself after the double helix work. And we have a raging debate about his relative contribution to even that work. So actually it isn’t clear that he’s any smarter than the average pic-i-nic basket himself”. I don’t know the fields well enough for a search of his published work to tell me anything beyond where his stuff was published.

    Seems like an informed scientific-accomplishments-of-Watson biography might be a good blog topic for someone or other that knows the field well enough…


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