lunes, junio 02, 2008

Color, Controversy and DNA

The Root

A conversation between The Root Editor-in-Chief Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Nobel laureate and DNA pioneer James Watson about race and genetics, Jewish intelligence, blacks and basketball and Watson's African roots.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. at Cold Spring Laboratories in 2008.
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June 2, 2008--Below are excerpts from the Q&A with Nobel laureate and DNA pioneer James Watson.

READ Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s thoughts about this interview in an essay about the science of racism .

WATCH portions of this conversation in video.

James Watson: I've thought about these things a lot over the last couple of months, because those who know me well, you know, I'm mortified by those three sentences in the Sunday Times article. I'm not a monster, and yet, if you took them at their face value, I seem to be nasty.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. : But Dr. Watson, on behalf of the African Americans who admired you, studied your work, and read The, where in the world did those words come from?

JW: One sentence was just taken out of my book. It was [that] we shouldn't expect that people in different parts of the world have equal intelligence, because we don't know that. [Some] people say that they should be the same. I think the answer is we don't know. … With the other two sentences, I talked to [the Times reporter] for eight hours. When I read the [quotes], I had no memory whatsoever of ever saying them. Because if I'd said anything like that, it was so inappropriate!

HLG: Well, are you gloomy about the future of Africa?

JW: Not if we educate them. I think we've got to focus on education.

HLG: As soon as you were quoted in The Times, David Duke posted on his Web site. He said, at last, the smartest white man in the world, the man who identified DNA, has confirmed what we've known all the time. …

JW: I [am appalled by] the fact that that remark was associated with me because I don't believe it. You can't tell me that Ethiopians are stupid. Jesus. So they test very low on IQ, but I know enough of them—they're bright.


HLG: You were quoted [in the Times of London article ] as saying you thought there was a relationship between color and libido, or sex drive.

JW: The remark I was telling was a joke. There was a poem by Byron, the sun makes you frisky. It was the link between the sun and sexuality. Well, if you get out in the sun, you will be more sexual. Ten years ago, someone was trying to produce a product that would turn your skin dark. He was making a chemical derivative of a stimulating hormone, which is turned out when your skin tans. He injected it into himself and he got a 10-hour erection.

HLG: Is that true? A 10-hour erection from this?

JW: He was scared it would never go down. But it had to be injected. Then Viagra came out, and the whole market disappeared. Anyways, I thought it was a great theory. It could have all been totally wrong. Poets write about the sun, and you associate sexuality with the Mediterranean—not the North Sea. I'm a biologist. I'm just interested in different things. But you know, I really am a very un-frivolous person, but I like to explain. If the sun makes you sexy, you know, it would be a useful fact for people to know.


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