Watson gets the Larry Summers Prize

What have I said repeatedly about James Watson over the last two days? I’ve said that we should not invest too much in his statement on racial differences in intelligence, because he had never talked about the issue previously during his entire career, and the view did not seem to represent a deeply thought out position he was prepared to defend, but rather was a casual opinion casually dropped in the midst of a long interview. I’ve suggested that Watson may turn out to be like Lawrence Summers and Pope Benedict, who made true and extraordinarily provocative statements to which they were not committed, and which they dishonorably retracted when they came under attack.

And what has happened? The same that happened with Summers, the same that happened with Benedict. With half of bien pensant Britain screaming down his neck, Watson, an American who is visiting Britain this week, has issued an abject apology:

Science is no stranger to controversy and I am not one to shy away from tackling issues, however, difficult they might prove to be.

I have had my share of controversy, as many of you know. But I am mortified about what has happened.

More importantly, I cannot understand how I could have said what I am quoted as having said. I can certainly understand why people, reading those words, have reacted in the ways 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.

Now there are two ways of interpreting this. The first is that Watson is an intellectual coward who is denying that there is any basis for saying there are IQ differences between the races, something he surely knows is not true, especially given what he said to the Times. The second is that he’s making a non-apology apology, as Pope Benedict initially did last year following the Regensburg lecture. I say this because nowhere in Watson’s “apology” does he actually retract the idea of racial differences in intelligence. To say that the physical continent of Africa—“Africa, as a continent”—is not “genetically inferior” to other continents, is a meaningless collection of words. A continent does not have genes and chromosomes—biological organisms do. Furthermore, the phrase, “Africa, as a continent,” is so pointed, that I tend to think the meaninglessness is not the result of mere misspeaking but is deliberate.

This doesn’t excuse him, however. He’s joined the dishonorable tradition of prominent figures in Western society who issue what sound like fundamental challenges to liberal orthodoxy, but who, as soon they come under the predictable politically correct storm, fold like a cheap camera. By inflaming liberal rage, then surrendering to it, they strengthen the liberal orthodoxy. What the Summerses and Benedicts and Watsons do is treason to truth. If they’re not prepared to take a stand and challenge the liberal lies that surround us, better they should not issue their anti-liberal comments in the first place.

* * *

On a side point, Watson never said in the London Times interview that blacks are “genetically inferior.” He only used that phrase in his apology. Yet the Daily Mail headline cries:

Race row scientist apologises for saying Africans are “genetically inferior”

Good work, Watson—apologizing for a nasty-sounding phrase you never spoke, and thus giving the liberals even more ammunition to use against you, and against the truth that you didn’t believe in enough to defend.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 18, 2007 08:09 PM | Send

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