Thursday, October 18, 2007

Why can't we ask the question?

James Dewey Watson won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (really, that's what it's called) for "discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material". Essentially, he and his colleagues discovered DNA.

So, along comes 2007. Watson's newest book, Avoid Boring People and Other Lessons from a Life in Science, is released, and in it he opines:

"There is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so."

Then, on October 14, the Sunday Times printed more of his remarks, in which he lamented the hope for social progress in 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".

Here's a man who, through much of his professional career, was at the forefront of genetics, and he doesn't see any reason to believe that all races are equal. And he's being villified for it.

Why? We've created this ideal that all humans are equal, an ideal based more on preferences and good intentions than scientific evidence, and now we're not allowed to investigate scientific hypotheses that might lead to contrary conclusions. That's absurd. I would much rather prefer to strive to be factually correct rather than politically correct in all things, and I can't imagine why anyone would think otherwise.

Some people might ask of James Watson's remarks, "What if he's right?" I wonder why we aren't allowed to find out.