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chaloobi
SFN Regular

1620 Posts

Posted - 10/18/2007 :  11:37:01  Show Profile  Send chaloobi a Yahoo! Message Send chaloobi a Private Message  Reply with Quote
"Museum cancels race row scientist's talk"

When I read this headline I thought it was referring to the Bell Curve from a half dozen years ago. But it was actually a recent statement by Dr. Watson of Watson & Crick fame, the Nobel Prize winning discoverers of DNA structure. He said:

Watson, an American, sparked uproar by telling Britain's Sunday Times he was "inherently gloomy about the prospects 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."

The 79-year-old geneticist said he hoped that everyone was equal but countered that "people who have to deal with black employees find this is not true."

Uh-oh. He's on a book tour and his sold out speaking engagement at London's Science Museum was cancelled because of the remarks. In principle I don't like denying those with unpopular views the right to speak - indeed I think it's better if they DO speak. Perhaps it would have been better to have a Q&A session and grill him a bit on the subject.

Generally, this reminds me of the Bell Curve and even more so of when the President of Harvard expressed that he thought it worthwhile to study whether women were genetically predisposed to not excel at science and math. Our current approach to these ideas is to cast them into the fires of hell, never to be seen or heard again. And I'm not sure that's a bad thing.

Afterall, what if they are studied and found to be true? What if it was empricially determined with iron clad evidence that humans of African genetic desecent are less intelligent than Europeans and Asians??? The potential for evil justfied by such knowledge is enormous, but what of the good that can come of it? Is there any??? If not, then leave the dog lie.

Same goes with women in science and math. On the one hand I hate to see someone kicked around for saying "hey, maybe we should study this and see if it's a factor underlying this cultural phenomenon." But on the other hand, if it IS found to be a factor, then what? What about the individual women who do exel at math and science? Will they lose opportunity? Will they never get a chance? Will they ever earn equal pay as their male counterparts? This is the empirical validation of a racial or sexual stereotype and it comes with all the often tragic unfairness to the individual.

All prejudices, preconceptions, and scientific objectivity aside, I think with some things, it's best not to know.

Thoughts?

Link: http://www.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUSL1869567020071018

-Chaloobi


Edited by - chaloobi on 10/18/2007 12:04:42

Cuneiformist
The Imperfectionist

USA
4954 Posts

Posted - 10/18/2007 :  12:09:15   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Cuneiformist a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Right, Chaloobi. I recall a book called Taboo on somethign similar, which discussed the (taboo) topic of if certain population groups were more genetically disposed to excel at sports. And it's a valid question to ask. I mean, cultural factors obviously play a part in some of that (e.g. why hockey is almost entirely white-- and made up largely of Canadian and ex-Soviet players), but is the make-up of the NBA like it is entirely for social factors??

Again, just because a question (or a possible answer) is uncomfortable doesn't mean it's wrong or invalid.

Is this guy wrong in his comments? I have never seen any of his supposed "testing" so I think it's safe to say he's wrong. But better to let him talk and be exposed than to just silence him!
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chaloobi
SFN Regular

1620 Posts

Posted - 10/18/2007 :  12:19:03   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send chaloobi a Yahoo! Message Send chaloobi a Private Message  Reply with Quote
My thoughts are that this isn't just uncomforatable - it would be a very bad thing to find out he was right. Bad enough, maybe, to justify not finding out, especially since the benefit from such knowledge just isn't there. If only bad can come of it, then why pursue it?

-Chaloobi

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Chippewa
SFN Regular

USA
1496 Posts

Posted - 10/18/2007 :  12:43:34   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Chippewa's Homepage Send Chippewa a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The whole idea is blown completely out of the water by the existence of African Nobel Prize winners, Mensa members, authors, scientists, doctors, philosophers, etcetera. If Watson's assessment of African under-achievement is attributed to race rather than any other factor, there would be not one member of a race who would meet Watson's narrow standard.

A case might be made for impoverished third world areas intrinsically under-producing technological or cultural standards that are valued by Western society. However, I'm of the opinion that such standards, Western or African, are actually separate from the biology of any race. Ultimately all races are the same race, since we all came from Africa.

.

Diversity, independence, innovation and imagination are progressive concepts ultimately alien to the conservative mind.

"TAX AND SPEND" IS GOOD! (TAX: Wealthy corporations who won't go poor even after taxes. SPEND: On public works programs, education, the environment, improvements.)
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leoofno
Skeptic Friend

USA
346 Posts

Posted - 10/18/2007 :  12:56:21   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send leoofno a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Cuneiformist

Right, Chaloobi. I recall a book called Taboo on somethign similar, which discussed the (taboo) topic of if certain population groups were more genetically disposed to excel at sports. And it's a valid question to ask. I mean, cultural factors obviously play a part in some of that (e.g. why hockey is almost entirely white-- and made up largely of Canadian and ex-Soviet players), but is the make-up of the NBA like it is entirely for social factors??

Again, just because a question (or a possible answer) is uncomfortable doesn't mean it's wrong or invalid.

Is this guy wrong in his comments? I have never seen any of his supposed "testing" so I think it's safe to say he's wrong. But better to let him talk and be exposed than to just silence him!

I would like some comments on some thoughts that have been kicking around in my head for a while. If you think I'm off base, let me know.

I think its clear that certain groups of humans who are closely related have similar physical characteristics, and some of those characteristics can be considerably different from other groups. I'm thinking about groups like "Northern Europeans" vs. "African Bushmen" vs. "Japaneese". Some of these characteristics will obviously be an asset in certain sports or activities. For example, the short, stocky and barrel-chested Sherpa would probably have more difficulty excelling in basketball then the generally taller Swede, until the game was moved to 15000 feet.

Since Africa, the birthplace of humanity, holds the largest pool of human ethnic diversity on the planet, I would not find it at all surprising if many sports become dominated by Africans. With such a wealth of genetic diversity, chances are that the group of humans best suited to a particular sport would come from Africa.

I think some people want to ignore these differences because they think it will aid the cause of racists, who will say "Well if physical characteristics can vary so widely, why not intelligence?".

Seems to me that while it makes sense that populations would adapt to different environments (cold, heat, high altitude...) if they live there long enough, I can not think of a situation where more intelligence would not be selected for. There should still considerable mixing between these groups, and while non-adaptive physical characteristics would be "weeded out", it seems to me that any introduced increase in intelligence would spread. Ultimately, every group would be kept at the same high level.

Makes sense to me.

"If you're not terrified, you're not paying attention." Eric Alterman
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dv82matt
SFN Regular

760 Posts

Posted - 10/18/2007 :  13:55:30   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send dv82matt a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by chaloobi

My thoughts are that this isn't just uncomforatable - it would be a very bad thing to find out he was right. Bad enough, maybe, to justify not finding out, especially since the benefit from such knowledge just isn't there. If only bad can come of it, then why pursue it?
If it were true it's better to find out about it IMO. But really we're just jumping at shadows as there isn't any evidence that that it's true as far as I know, and we shouldn't shy away from studying something just because we are afraid of what the results might be.
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chaloobi
SFN Regular

1620 Posts

Posted - 10/18/2007 :  13:56:25   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send chaloobi a Yahoo! Message Send chaloobi a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Chippewa

The whole idea is blown completely out of the water by the existence of African Nobel Prize winners, Mensa members, authors, scientists, doctors, philosophers, etcetera. If Watson's assessment of African under-achievement is attributed to race rather than any other factor, there would be not one member of a race who would meet Watson's narrow standard.

A case might be made for impoverished third world areas intrinsically under-producing technological or cultural standards that are valued by Western society. However, I'm of the opinion that such standards, Western or African, are actually separate from the biology of any race. Ultimately all races are the same race, since we all came from Africa.

.
Think of it like a stereotype: While the claim might be true for the average, there are always exceptions; sometimes large numbers of them, which is the inherrant injustice of stereotypes. So while you have African Nobel Lauriates and MENSA members, the average intelligence might still be lower than the European average.

IMHO, this question cannot even begin to be answered until the average African grows up with the same diet, educational and social conditions as the average European. And let me reiterated, what good can come out of attempting to answer this question anyway?

EDITED for clarity.

-Chaloobi

Edited by - chaloobi on 10/18/2007 13:58:15
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 10/18/2007 :  13:57:07   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by leoofno
I can not think of a situation where more intelligence would not be selected for.
Politics.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
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dv82matt
SFN Regular

760 Posts

Posted - 10/18/2007 :  14:24:24   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send dv82matt a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by chaloobi
IMHO, this question cannot even begin to be answered until the average African grows up with the same diet, educational and social conditions as the average European.
Only the Africans and Europeans who are participating in the study would have be isolated from confounding factors, not the populations as a whole.

And let me reiterated, what good can come out of attempting to answer this question anyway?
Suppose after studying the question we learn that while there are differences African's are not less intelligent and can outperform Caucasions on average in some areas. The differences once understood might enable a better grasp of how the mind works. But this is just speculation. The fact is we won't know what the positives or negatives are if it goes unresearched due to social taboos.
Edited by - dv82matt on 10/18/2007 14:35:29
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chaloobi
SFN Regular

1620 Posts

Posted - 10/18/2007 :  15:43:20   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send chaloobi a Yahoo! Message Send chaloobi a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by dv82matt

Originally posted by chaloobi
IMHO, this question cannot even begin to be answered until the average African grows up with the same diet, educational and social conditions as the average European.
Only the Africans and Europeans who are participating in the study would have be isolated from confounding factors, not the populations as a whole.
Of course. I presume they're not going to do intelligence testing on every single African.
And let me reiterated, what good can come out of attempting to answer this question anyway?
Suppose after studying the question we learn that while there are differences African's are not less intelligent and can outperform Caucasions on average in some areas. The differences once understood might enable a better grasp of how the mind works. But this is just speculation. The fact is we won't know what the positives or negatives are if it goes unresearched due to social taboos.
I'm not convinced.


Edited the quote problem...

-Chaloobi

Edited by - chaloobi on 10/19/2007 05:06:09
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dv82matt
SFN Regular

760 Posts

Posted - 10/18/2007 :  17:28:17   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send dv82matt a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by chaloobi
I'm not convinced.
What would convince you?

Science has often struggled against and often overcome the taboos of its time. In virtually every case where enough time has passed for us to gain some perspective this has turned out to be a good thing.

For one example the taboo against dissecting cadavers hindered our understanding of anatomy and thus medicine for a long time.

We can't do science properly if we have to avoid sacred cows all the time. The idea that every race must be equally intelligent on average or else the bigots win, while perhaps well intentioned, is toxic to free inquiry and science.

edit:fix spelling
Edited by - dv82matt on 10/18/2007 17:52:59
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 10/18/2007 :  17:43:30   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Greg Laden (no relation to Bin) has this about that. (Link found thanks to PZ.)
James Watson: Please bend over while I kick your freakin ass.
Posted on October 17th, 2007 by Greg

It is now time to kick James Watson's ass.

The man is a terrible embarrassment to us all. (“Us” being scientists and rational types.) It is said by the press that Watson “makes his colleagues cringe when he goes off script” or “is known for making controversial remarks” and so on. Fine. But these are not apt descriptors for James Watson's most recent remarks or, for that matter, many of his earlier remarks. No, not at all. These descriptors make Watson sound like a somewhat crazy free thinking guy who doesn't care if he pisses off a few people with what he says. But that is not what he is at all.

No. James Watson is, simply put, a moron. I want to take a moment to explain why I think that.

Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
Edited by - HalfMooner on 10/18/2007 17:43:59
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Hawks
SFN Regular

Canada
1383 Posts

Posted - 10/19/2007 :  00:42:53   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Hawks's Homepage Send Hawks a Private Message  Reply with Quote
...he was "inherently gloomy about the prospects 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."


I'd like for him to justify that scientifically - and I'm not simply talking about showing a mean difference between whites/blacks in some sort of IQ test (and showing that this is due to hereditary reasons). Otherwise he is simply making some remarks that are given too much weight due to his "authority". And he should know better than to do that, really.

As an aside: HalfMooner mentioned a couple of "Ladens". Did y'all realize that Osama Bin Laden is an anagram for Obama Sin Laden? All you americans should really keep that in mind when you vote.

METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL
It's a small, off-duty czechoslovakian traffic warden!
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 10/19/2007 :  03:36:09   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
It seems ol' Jim, he may have plum forgotten to recollect his racist remarks:
LONDON, England (CNN) -- Nobel laureate biologist Jim Watson apologized "unreservedly" Thursday for stating that black people were not as intelligent as whites, saying he was "mortified" by the comments attributed to him.


Jim Watson won the 1962 Nobel Prize for his part in discovering the structure of DNA.

"I cannot understand how I could have said what I am quoted as having said," Watson said during an appearance at the Royal Society in London.

"I can certainly understand why people, reading those words, have reacted in the ways that they have."

"To all those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologize unreservedly. That is not what I meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no scientific basis for such a belief," he said.
As for me, I'm ready to forget everything about the old guy.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
Edited by - HalfMooner on 10/19/2007 03:41:35
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chaloobi
SFN Regular

1620 Posts

Posted - 10/19/2007 :  05:50:14   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send chaloobi a Yahoo! Message Send chaloobi a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by dv82matt

Originally posted by chaloobi
I'm not convinced.
What would convince you?

Science has often struggled against and often overcome the taboos of its time. In virtually every case where enough time has passed for us to gain some perspective this has turned out to be a good thing.

For one example the taboo against dissecting cadavers hindered our understanding of anatomy and thus medicine for a long time.

We can't do science properly if we have to avoid sacred cows all the time. The idea that every race must be equally intelligent on average or else the bigots win, while perhaps well intentioned, is toxic to free inquiry and science.

edit:fix spelling
The conviction I lack is with the assertion that this research can somehow be put to good, or even benign, use. Sure, if the result is that all human ethnic groups are more or less of the same average intelligence, then woo hoo. That's great news. But if the result is that Europeans are more or less intelligent than Africans and Asians, won't there then be empirical justification for all sorts of racism?

Groups of humans who are convinced of their superiority over other groups of humans have a poor history of behaving well toward them. The down side of such empirical knowledge is very down and our history is replete with examples. And what's the up side again? You said we won't know the up or down side until we do the research, and I completely disagree. The down side is evident in the worst of the worst in human history. The upside you say might be a better grasp of how the mind works...

I think it's very reasonable to be unconvinced by this cost/benefit scenario. As to the question of what it would take to convince me? It's so elusive I can't even think of an example.

-Chaloobi

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On fire for Christ
SFN Regular

Saudi Arabia
1266 Posts

Posted - 10/19/2007 :  06:17:12   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send On fire for Christ a Private Message  Reply with Quote
half the population already thinks this.

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