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DNA pioneer James Watson embroiled in PC racism uproar: Updates

Watson is currently suspended from chancelor duties.

Watson’s own institute has itself been linked to historical Darwinian racism, even though it dutifully denounced him.

Also, here’s a spoof interview from The Brites on the reaction of a paragon of political correctness, trying to hold together Darwinism and egalitarianism. (Of COURSE it doesn’t work. As I point out here, you can’t have both Darwinism and egalitarianism. The only possible result is PC idiocy. )

More seriously, a friend offers some brief extracts from Watson’s book DNA:

“Our discovery had put an end to a debate as old as the human species: Does life have some magical, mystical essence, or is it, like any chemical reaction carried out in a science class, the product of normal physical and chemical processes? Is there something divine at the heart of a cell that brings it to life? The double helix answered that question with a definitive No” (xii).

No?

“Only with the discovery of the double helix and the ensuing genetic revolution have we had grounds for thinking that the powers held traditionally to be the exclusive property of the gods might one day be ours. Life, we now know, is nothing but a vast array of coordinated chemical reactions. The ‘secret’ to that coordination is the breathtakingly complex set of instructions inscribed, again chemically, in our DNA” (396).

One of the most innovative scientists I know has strictly cautioned me against any kind of “nothing buttery” as observed above.

Watson is nonetheless generous, after his fashion:

I do not dispute the right of individuals to look to religion for a private moral compass, but I do object to the assumption of too many religious people that atheists live in a moral vacuum. Those of us who feel no need for a moral code written down in an ancient tome have, in my opinion, recourse to an innate moral intuition long ago shaped by natural selection promoting social cohesion in groups of our ancestors.

But, unbelievers that we are, Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard and I doubt that any such “innate moral intuition” can be created by the magic of natural selection. The moral intuition of relatedness comes rather from the relationship between our limited minds and the mind that created the universe in which we live.

Oh, well, it is obvious that Watson is not a corner stool at our local coffee klatsch. He doesn’t even like Gattaca, whose limitations I concede myself – but he dislikes it for entirely different* reasons:

In addition to laying out a misleadingly dismal vision of our future within the film itself, the creators of Gattaca concocted a promotional tag line aimed at the deepest prejudices against genetic knowledge: “There is no gene for the human spirit.” It remains a dangerous blind spot in our society that so many wish this were so. If the truth revealed by DNA could be accepted without fear, we should not despair for those who follow us. [p 405]

Well, it’s just true. There is NO gene for the human spirit. That doesn’t mean that science could never discover anything about the human spirit. It means that looking for a God gene (God spot, God module) that creates it is a waste of time.

*I didn’t believe that a guy could fake out the fitness tests with a diseased heart. Didn’t sound right.

Also:

The US government did NOT falsify the accepted age of the Grand Canyon

Neanderthal guy was one of us (but still won’t use underarm deodorant)

Key atheist argument a shell game?

Another novelist overcomes stroke, produces new book

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13 Responses to DNA pioneer James Watson embroiled in PC racism uproar: Updates

  1. I am generally not a fan of the Brites satire, but IMHO that piece is very funny!

  2. “The US government did NOT falsify accepted age of Grand Canyon”

    The link doesn’t work.

  3. Sorry it does work now

  4. I think this article from THE AMERICAN THINKER, asks some relevant questions regarding this controversy.

    http://www.americanthinker.com.....acism.html

    The title is : CAN WE PLEASE DEFINE “RACISM” ?

    RELEVANT EXCERPTS :

    “What is “racism”?

    Is it simply voicing beliefs about differences among races? Am I a racist if I say that blacks have darker skin and frizzier hair? No, I suppose not. What about if I point out that blacks commit a disproportionate amount of crime and that 70 percent of black children are born out-of-wedlock, versus 27 percent for whites? Well, in our culture that is borderline. But why? On what basis should we determine what is “racist”?

    One might think that pointing out negative characteristic qualities or the weaknesses of a race makes a person a racist, but even this cannot be so. After all, we take pains to emphasize that sickle cell anemia is unique to blacks and that they are more likely to develop heart disease. Then there is the fact that Tay-Sachs Disease is found only among certain distinct groups, mainly Jews. In fact, were we to claim that these crosses are borne equally by all, we would be labeled “racist” for ignoring what ails minorities. It would be said that we really didn’t care if they lived or died. This gets confusing, though; on the one hand we’re castigated for pointing out differences, on the other we’re complimented for doing so.

    It might seem that we mustn’t bring to light differences when doing so can lead to discrimination, but not so fast. When we emphasize the fact that only certain groups suffer from certain diseases, they receive attention and funding that others will not. Moreover, showcasing disparities in performance among the races has long been used to justify quotas and set-asides.

    So, this is where one must start to think that there is more here — or less — than meets the eye.”

    ……..

    “This is why the politically correct thought police are so destructive. When they criticize a man like Watson, not only do they rarely say his statements are untrue, but the Truth of the matter doesn’t even seem to enter their minds.”

    …….

    “The Truth is that the outrage here isn’t Dr. Watson’s remarks; they’re either true or not. What’s outrageous is that we’re suffering under the yolk of those to whom Truth means nothing — the practitioners of a dark faith. They don’t care if a statement is correct, only whether it’s politically correct. They hate the Truth when it contradicts their agenda, and they’ll stop at nothing to still the tongues of those who would dare voice it. Racists? These miscreants are infinitely worse. They are Truthists.”

    ……..

    “if we really care about a race’s welfare, shouldn’t we “diagnose” its condition — whatever that condition may be — properly so that its gifts may be best utilized, its inherent weaknesses best mitigated and its problems best remedied? If this makes sense with physical crosses such as sickle-cell anemia and heart disease, it makes sense for all crosses, be they spiritual, social or, dare I say, intellectual. Stating this isn’t wrong or racist, and it shouldn’t be repressed.”

  5. It would be nice if anyone had the time to check the Neanderthal and chain mail armor controversy:

    http://www.rae.org/armor.html
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/homs/armor.html
    http://www.ianjuby.org/neanderthal/

  6. “I do not dispute the right of individuals to look to religion for a private moral compass, but I do object to the assumption of too many religious people that atheists live in a moral vacuum. Those of us who feel no need for a moral code written down in an ancient tome have, in my opinion, recourse to an innate moral intuition long ago shaped by natural selection promoting social cohesion in groups of our ancestors.”

    I get so tired of atheists burning this idiotic strawman.

  7. I am curious as what strawman is being burned here? I presume (although I may be wrong) that the line about “ancient tome” is what you are referring to, but the rest of the quote, irrespective of whether one accepts the position that it describes or not, doesn’t seem to me to contain any strawmen.

    Could you explain your comment?

  8. I think that sometimes evolutionary critics aren’t precise enough when addressing morality. Morality is not only perverted by evolution, but it is completely nonexistent in a naturalistic paradigm. Free will vanishes in the strictly material world, and I feel like this gets completely glossed over when people invoke more religious arguments for morality issues. It might be what they actually mean, but it usually isn’t clear enough.

  9. Pardon a note or two:

    On IQ, Morality and the “Brights” . . .

    1] IQ:

    We should note the issues [as even so humble a source as Wiki notes], debates and limitations of such scores, as well as the point that for many decades, raw as opposed to normed scores [across the races . . .] have been trending upwards.

    2] Morality and the Judaeo-Christian view:

    A careful reading of say Rom 1 – 3 will at once show that — contrary to the apparent assumption of many contemporary anti-theistic objectors, the Judaeo-Christian frame holds and has always held, that all normal men have valid moral intuitions and impulses, e.g. conscience.

    Equally, we face the challenge to consistently live up to these standards, especially as reflected in our expectations from others.

    [As C S Lewis was fond of highlighting, the fact that we quarrel and how we do so is highly revealing of the fact that we find ourselves bound by moral law, raising of course the reasonable question: Lawgiver.]

    3] The strawman:

    JR cites Watson:

    I do object to the assumption of too many religious people that atheists live in a moral vacuum. Those of us who feel no need for a moral code written down in an ancient tome have, in my opinion, recourse to an innate moral intuition . . .

    I of course deliberately cut off at the point where Watson acknowledges the point Paul etc make. [His attempted rationale for it will come up for assessment shortly.]

    Had Mr Watson instead spoken to the challenges that many informed theists actually make, he would have spoken to the real issue instead of burning a convenient strawman:

    * Theists observe that Evolutionary Materialism has severe problems grounding morality as a binding obligation — relativising morality to cultural consensus and rationalising it on claimed Natural Selection just does not do!

    * We also think that too often Evo Mat thinkers protest too much in claiming to be moral: they typically betray a seriously inadequate appreciation of the depth of the personal, existential struggle towards virtue. [Mr Dawkins' recent fiascos, the foolish and tyrannical declarations of the Swedish Minister of Education, and indeed Mr Watson's own remarks all substantiate the point.]

    * Joined to this, we find that too often such thinkers wish to make up self- or agenda- serving, relativism- tinged morality scores. [Application of the Golden Rule in the analytical form of Kant's Categorical Imperative would soon enough reveal the moral incoherence of too many such positions. (Yes, I know K had a low view of the GR, but his CI in fact is demonstrably tantamount to it.)]

    * Too often, further, Evo Mat advocates wish to borrow without acknowledging the debt, what they find convenient from the Biblically anchored Judaeo-Christian frame while also castigating it and failing to solidly ground their moral codes. (I am especially incensed at those who wish to trot out long litanies of sins and conundrums and Sunday School ticklers, whilst refusing to acknowledge basic facts on say the major and sacrificial Judaeo-Christian contribution to the rise of modern liberty.)

    * Here, the incoherence of Evo Mat views on accounting for mind as well as morals is a serious issue [cf link above], as we have recently discussed at length in this blog, cf the Aug 20 Charles Darwin thread.]

    Finally, let us look a bit closer at . . .

    4] Watson’s relativism: Those of us who feel no need for a moral code written down in an ancient tome have, in my opinion, recourse to an innate moral intuition long ago shaped by natural selection promoting social cohesion in groups of our ancestors

    First, there lurks a separate strawman: the core of Biblical morality is not merely written in a book, it is written in our hearts — i.e the law of mutual respect, fairness and benevolence.

    So to object to the mere act of writing it down is a distraction that appeals to prejudice.

    Equally, to simply assume and assert that no it was not put in us by a Lawgiver, but instead is merely the promoter of social cohesion begs a serious question of grounding the Evo Mat claim on the origin of moral intuition factually and logically in their mechanism of random variation plus natural selection. Just-so stories will not do, sirs.

    Worse, the appeal to social cohesion neatly side-steps the question of disproportionate power and the associated challenge of reformation.

    For, if it is just a matter of social cohesion, sufficiently powerful individuals and classes need make no recourse to anything beyond; MIGHT MAKES RIGHT. Indeed, Mr Watson’s phrasing plainly simply puts this demonstrably monstrous principle in a nice-sounding way.

    But equally, then what do we make of reformers? For, they inherently and necessarily shatter social cohesion by provoking quarrels in societies they call to repentance, on the grand scale.

    And, they do so by calling attention to the binding nature of moral obligation in light of the inherent dignity of the human being — not to social cohesion. [The US Declaration of Independence is a classic case in point.]

    But, on Evo Mat terms, there is no inherent dignity to appeal to in the end, only power. [Contrast the US DOI's self-evident truth that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights that it is the task of government to protect. The import of that "self-evident" claim is that the denial of the truth ends in absurdity, as we can in fact see -- if we are willing.]

    Worse, our thoughts, feelings, decisions and conclusions are shaped by chance + necessity-driven forces, i.e mind itself is of questionable credibility due to determinism and chance boundary conditions. [Cf my linked.]

    GEM of TKI

  10. Watson and Crick took the work (famous photo 51) from Rosalind Franklin without telling her and without permission (they just stole it).
    And now Crick admits he was ‘high on LSD’ when discovered DNA structure.
    What a pair of scientists…. :)

  11. You’ll notice that Panda’s Thumb “forgot” to put a trend about Watson’s racist and evolutionary words. PvM puts a trend aboiut pretty much everything, but his radar did not catch Watson’s words.

  12. To be fair, we don’t exactly go out of our way to highlight any “bad” comments an ID proponent might make. Although, I can’t think of anything off hand that’s at the same level.

  13. Well lookie here… it looks like James Watson himself comes back defending what he said in an op-ed at the British paper : THE INDEPENDENT

    TITLE : “To question genetic intelligence is not racism”

    SEE HERE :

    http://comment.independent.co......075642.ece

    INTERESTING EXCERPT :

    “I have always fiercely defended the position that we should base our view of the world on the state of our knowledge, on fact, and not on what we would like it to be. This is why genetics is so important. For it will lead us to answers to many of the big and difficult questions that have troubled people for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

    But those answers may not be easy, for, as I know all too well, genetics can be cruel. My own son may be one of its victims. Warm and perceptive at the age of 37, Rufus cannot lead an independent life because of schizophrenia, lacking the ability to engage in day-to-day activities. For all too long, my wife Ruth and I hoped that what Rufus needed was an appropriate challenge on which to focus. But as he passed into adolescence, I feared the origin of his diminished life lay in his genes. It was this realisation that led me to help to bring the human genome project into existence.”

    ……

    “We do not yet adequately understand the way in which the different environments in the world have selected over time the genes which determine our capacity to do different things. The overwhelming desire of society today is to assume that equal powers of reason are a universal heritage of humanity. It may well be. But simply wanting this to be the case is not enough. This is not science.

    To question this is not to give in to racism. This is not a discussion about superiority or inferiority, it is about seeking to understand differences, about why some of us are great musicians and others great engineers. It is very likely that at least some 10 to 15 years will pass before we get an adequate understanding for the relative importance of nature versus nurture in the achievement of important human objectives. Until then, we as scientists, wherever we wish to place ourselves in this great debate, should take care in claiming what are unarguable truths without the support of evidence.”

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