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Racist Nobel laureate selling his medallion

Nobel laureate James Watson is having to auction off his Nobel Prize medallion because his income plummeted following his statement that Africans are less intelligent than Westerners



Black people everywhere must be forgiven for experiencing a strong feeling of Schadenfreude at the news that Nobel laureate James Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, is selling his Nobel Prize medallion because he needs the money.

According to the Financial Times, he said that following accusations of racism in 2007, “no one really wants to admit I exist”, and as a result his income plummeted.

In 2007, Dr. Watson said he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of 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”. He said people liked to think all human beings should be equal but “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”. He was talking to The Sunday Times at the time, trying to promote the book in which he expanded on this theory.

Unlike your pub racist whose remarks can be dismissed as the ramblings of a drunken fool, Dr. Watson’s remarks were highly dangerous because of his authority. It’s just the sort of thing racists like to hear to support their beliefs. As dangerous as The Bell Curve, the book in which two Americans – a psychologist and a political scientist – claimed in 1994 that IQ differences were genetic, an idea thoroughly discredited by Stephen Jay Gould (among others) in his book The Mismeasure of Man. It didn’t stop The Bell Curve from remaining a bestseller; people hungry for confirmation of their beliefs are often deaf to anything that challenges those beliefs.


Dr. Watson has made similarly racist or sexist statements throughout his career. During a guest lecture at the University of California, he stunned his audience by positing the theory that dark-skinned people have stronger libidos, arguing that extracts of melanin – which gives skin its colour – boosted a person’s sex drive. My theory is that besides being a racist, the man had seen too many bad movies.

It was during the same lecture that he said “Whenever you interview fat people, you feel bad, because you know you’re not going to hire them.”

And at a science conference just two years ago, he said of women in science, “I think having all these women around makes it more fun for the men but they’re probably less effective.”

The auction is this Thursday, and Dr. Watson will be the first Nobel laureate in history to do sell the medallion.