The Cold Spring Harbor lab on Friday revoked several honorary titles from his former director and pioneer in DNA research, a Nobel Prize winner, after he repeated his belief that blacks are genetically inferior to whites in intelligence.
James Watson, 90, made these comments for the first time publicly in a 2007 magazine interview and repeated them on PBS '"American Masters: Decoding Watson," which aired on January 2.
In a statement announcing the recall of the titles, the laboratory's board president, Marilyn Simons, and its president and CEO, Bruce Stillman, said the lab "unequivocally rejects the unproven and unwise personal opinions that expressed Dr. James D. Watson on the topic of ethnicity and genetics during the PBS documentary … Watson's statements are reprehensible, are not supported by science and in no way represent the views of CSHL, its administrators, teachers, staff or students The Laboratory condemns the misuse of science to justify prejudice. "
In 2007, Watson told The Sunday Times Magazine in London that he was "intrinsically grim about the African perspective" because "all of our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours, while all the tests say no. "He also said that he expected everyone to be the same, but that" people who have to deal with black employees find that this is not true. "
When producer and director of "Decoding Watson" Mark Mannucci asked Watson if his views on race and intelligence had changed, Watson replied: "No, not at all." I would like them to have changed, to have new knowledge that their nutrition is much more important than nature. But I have not seen any knowledge. And there is a difference in the average between blacks and whites in I.Q. tests I would say the difference is that it is genetic. "
The laboratory's spokeswoman, Dagnia Zeidlickis, said on Saturday: "As an institution, it's a sad moment."
"It's sad when you face such a dichotomy," he said, contrasting Watson's long list of scientific achievements and his leadership in the lab with "comments that are not backed by science."
Watson was the director of the laboratory from 1968 to 1994 and, after that, he was president and then chancellor. The laboratory suspended him as chancellor after his 2007 comments, and a few days later, after apologizing for the comments, Watson resigned. Among the titles that the institution took from him on Friday is the chancellor emeritus.
The biological science school in the laboratory is named after Watson. When asked if the lab would remove his name from the school, Zeidlickis said: "I can not tell you what the future will be like." But we are always evolving. "
Watson shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for a revolutionary discovery about the structure of DNA.
Nancy Hopkins, an emeritus professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that Watson had been her mentor when she was a professor at Harvard University and studying at Radcliffe College.
However, last year, Watson told him that the reason for the shortage of outstanding scientists is the genetic differences, Hopkins said Saturday. "It's just what he's saying about the race."
Hopkins is puzzled by the fact that a brilliant scientist who once stood ahead of his time in promoting women in the sciences and never said a racist word to him now would say that women and blacks are genetically inferior.
Hopkins supports the laboratory's decision to remove honorific titles. "It's like he's a different person," he said.
One of Watson's sons, Duncan Watson, declined to comment on Saturday.
Another son, Rufus Watson, who is schizophrenic, told The Associated Press on Friday that his father, who is in a nursing home after a car accident in October near the laboratory, has a "minimal" awareness of his environment. He said that his father was not a fanatic.
The observations in the documentary "only represent their rather restricted interpretation of genetic destiny," he told the AP.
Mannucci said Saturday that he gave Watson two opportunities for six months to clarify his 2007 comments, and each time he defended them.
"It was not to catch him or catch him," said Mannucci. "It was not a question I have, it was to be fair to him."
Michael Wigler, a cancer researcher at Cold Spring and a former Watson colleague, said: "For those of us who have had the honor of knowing the man and his deeds, there is only anguish over the current situation."