The DNA of racism
The London Science Museum has cancelled a scheduled public lecture by Dr James Watson, the Nobel prize-winning discoverer of DNA, after he made a statement which many would regard as racist. Dr Watson was due to give a talk at the museum on Friday.
A spokesman for the museum said the comments by the 79-year-old scientist had "gone beyond the point of scceptable debate". In an interview with the Sunday Times, Dr Watson explained that 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 ... "people who have to deal with black employees find this is not true".
This is a fairly sparse summary of what the Nobel laureate said -- and, of course, a presumed difference in intelligence does not in itself imply inferiority. The context, however, supports the conclusion that Dr Watson regards black Africans as less intelligent than, say, white Americans or Europeans.
Is this view in itself "racist" or merely an account of demonstrable evolutionary differences between "races"? That's a question that James Watson is now facing, and it's one that Richard Lynn, a former professor of psychology at the University of Ulster, has had to face for many years. In his most recent book, Race Differences in Intelligence: An Evolutionary Analysis, Lynn argues that
East Asians (Chinese, Japanese and Koreans) have the highest mean IQ at 105. These are followed by the Europeans (IQ 100). Some way below these are the Inuit (Eskimos) (IQ 91), South East Asians (IQ 87), Native American Indians (IQ 87), Pacific Islanders (IQ 85), South Asians and North Africans (IQ 84). Well below these come the sub-Saharan Africans (IQ 67) followed by the Australian Aborigines (IQ 62). The least intelligent races are the Bushmen of the Kalahari desert together with the Pygmies of the Congo rain forests (IQ 54).
This book draws together Lynn's academic research over many years, including comparative studies on race differences in intelligence. In 1991, for example, he argued that the average IQ of black people in sub-Saharan Africa is approximately 70, whereas the average IQ of black people in the United States is approximately 85. Lynn offered this theory to explain this kind of difference in IQ:
When early humans migrated from Africa into Eurasia they encountered the difficulty of survival during cold winters. This problem was especially severe during the ice ages. Plant foods were not available for much of the year and survival required the hunting and dismembering of large animals for food and the ability to make tools, weapons and clothing, to build shelters and make fires. These problems required higher intelligence and exerted selection pressure for enhanced intelligence, particularly on the Orientals.
It is one thing to engage in this kind of psychometric analysis, it is quite another to draw conclusions from this analysis about the geo-political problems facing contemporary Africa. James Watson may wish to reflect further on the role white Europeans (with high IQs) have played in creating some of the gloomy conditions in Africa which prompted his curious comment.