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"Discoverer" of DNA gets Foot in Mouth Disease

By       Message John R Moffett     Permalink
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Dr. James Watson of the famous Watson and Crick team credited with the discovery of the structure of the DNA molecule is embroiled in controversy after stating in an interview that Blacks were not as intelligent as Whites.

Dr. Watson, now 79 and Chancellor of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, was quoted as saying that he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa." And then continued "All our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really."

Dr. Watson has had a somewhat controversial career from the beginning. Despite the fact that he and fellow scientist Francis Crick received the Nobel Prize in 1962 for their work on the structure of nucleic acids, many scientists have noted that Watson and Crick did very little research themselves on the structure of DNA. Rather, they were known for schmoozing Dr. Rosalind Franklin in the early 1950s as she laboriously and carefully collected x-ray diffraction data of crystallized DNA molecules. Watson and Crick used the x-ray data, which gave the overall structure and dimensions of DNA, and then used ball and stick models to work out the precise structure of the DNA molecule. Dr. Rosie Franklin didn't even get a T-shirt that said "I did all the hard work, but they got the Nobel".

Where Dr. Watson ran into trouble in his recent interview was with the age old canard that equates intelligence and test scores. The funny thing about testing is that it is done with tests. And where do you learn how to take tests? Usually at school. Anyone who is as intelligent as Dr. Watson should know all too well that testing shows how well you take tests, not how intelligent you are.

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Overall, when ranking humans by so-called racial groups, Oriental people score highest on standard tests, Jewish people score high but slightly lower than Oriental people, Caucasians score slightly lower still, and Blacks usually score lower than Whites on average. Such test results do not indicate that Oriental people are the most intelligent, it indicates that they have been trained better to take tests. It says nothing about inherent underlying intelligence. The rank order on test scores simply shows that different groups of humans receive different amounts of test training in school. If Whites were trained to take tests as thoroughly as Oriental children they would score just as high, and it works that way across all groups.

All that such test scores show is that education is not doled out evenly among the population. It is an indictment of education systems not a measure of innate intelligence.

Dr. Watson should know better than to give himself such a serious case of foot in mouth disease.
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John R. Moffett PhD is a research neuroscientist in the Washington, DC area. Dr. Moffett's main area of research focuses on the brain metabolite N-acetylaspartate, and an associated genetic disorder known as Canavan disease.

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