Nobel Laureate James Watson Disinvited From U Illinois Due To RACISM
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Date: May 17th, 2017 5:11 PM
Author: Chaebong Hung ( )
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Nobel Laureate's Talk Called Off Over His Racist Comments
U of Illinois research institute agreed to host James Watson. But it called off the event after faculty members cited his comments on race, intelligence and geography.
By Scott Jaschik
May 17, 2017
A research institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign agreed to host James Watson, a Nobel laureate whose work is credited with discovering the structure of DNA, to give a lecture there. But the event was quickly called off amid faculty concerns about whether it was appropriate to host someone like Watson, whose statements have been widely condemned as racist.
Watson has made numerous controversial comments over the years and also has been condemned for sexist and homophobic statements.
But his comments on race have led many to say he should be shunned.
In a 2007 interview, he said 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.” Further, he said that while people hope that all groups are equal, “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.” (He also said that some black people are smart, and has apologized, although many question the sincerity of his apology.)
Since then, many groups have stayed away from Watson.
The Carl Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois, however, announced that it would host a talk by Watson next month.
Gene Robinson, director of the institute, told The News-Gazette that Watson had reached out to the center and then agreed to deliver a "narrowly focused scientific talk" about his cancer research, and that institute researchers reached out to colleagues because they were aware of Watson's reputation on issues of race.
But the institute backed away from the plans after a number of faculty members took to social media to condemn the plans to have Watson speak on campus.
Kate Clancy, an associate professor of anthropology at Illinois, was the most vocal, posting a series of tweets, some with links to articles with critiques of Watson's comments on race and other issues.
Robinson, talking to the News-Gazette, said, "In hearing the faculty's concerns, we decided that the right thing to do was not to have the lecture."
The institute announced its decision on Twitter.
Date: May 17th, 2017 5:46 PM
Sale of Nobel Prize Medal
In 2014, he decided to auction off his Nobel prize medal in view of his diminished income after the 2007 incident and to use part of the funds raised by the sale to support scientific research. The medal sold at auction at Christie's in December 2014 for US$4.1 million. Watson intended to contribute the proceeds to conservation work in Long Island and to funding research at Trinity College, Dublin. Watson is the first living recipient of the honor to auction the medal.
The medal was subsequently returned to Watson by the purchaser, Russian tycoon Alisher Usmanov, who stated that Watson deserved the medal and that it was "unacceptable" that he should be compelled to sell it.
On 4 December 2014, Usmanov paid $4.9m for Dr James Watson's Nobel Prize Medal in Physiology or Medicine, which was auctioned at Christie's in New York City. Watson was selling his prize to raise money to support scientific research. After auctions fees, Watson received $4.1m. Usmanov subsequently returned the medal to Watson, stating "in my opinion, a situation in which an outstanding scientist sells a medal recognizing his achievements is unacceptable. Watson's work contributed to cancer research, the illness from which my father died. It is important for me that the money that I spent on this medal will go to supporting scientific research, and the medal will stay with the person who deserved it."
Date: May 17th, 2017 6:08 PM
UIUC students on reddit seem broadly supportive of the decision:
1 point 19 hours ago
I think it's for the best since his kind of attitudes are detrimental to breaking down racial and gender barriers in the scientific community and taking a stand against discrimination in the field is important.
That being said, I'm a privileged white dude so I'd see him if he comes.
10 points 14 hours ago
Politics sometimes get in the way of science, this is true. But time and again we see that science trumps politics in the long run, since ideologies shift while scientific fact shall ever remain fact.
Watson may be an important figure in the biology community, but just reading the article shows he is very prejudiced against a variety of groups. Why should the hosts be forced to host him if they feel it might be construed as a tacit endorsement of his comments?
He isn't being imprisoned or actually censored. He just isn't giving a public lecture. If he really thinks that this lecture needs to be out there for people to see, he can record himself lecturing in a room and distribute it freely.
35 points 19 hours ago
Good, he's a giant dick... It's widely taught that Watson and Crick would not have discovered the structure of DNA and won the Nobel Prize without Rosalind Franklin and Photo 51. In layman's terms, Watson and Crick did Rosalind Franklin dirty.
While Watson, Crick, and Wilkins may have received the Nobel Prize, Rosalind Franklin had died four years prior at the age of 37 from ovarian cancer. Which she probably got from all the exposure to radiation from doing X-ray crystallography. And Watson-apologists will argue that he acknowledges Franklin's vital contribution. But the fact is, they stole her work and had she been born a man, respected by her peers, they would not have done her dirty...
20 hours ago
Watson made one of the most important scientific discoveries in the past 100 years and we cancel his lecture over some stupid shit? What the fuck!?
16 points 10 hours ago
How do you think it would look from the universities perspective? "Hey I know we have this thing about not supporting intolerance in any form, but there's a scientist here who's been quoted saying Africans are less intelligent at the genetic level, and we'd like to let him talk. It's okay, he promises not to talk about the racist stuff" it would come across as pure hypocrisy.
And that's before the fact that he effectively stole the credit for Rosalind Franklin's work.
2 points 3 hours ago
'If you asked most 89-year-old white men what they thought of africa they'd say something similar. I know my grandpa would. I thought we had a general amnesty for people this old.'
You might have "general amnesty" for him because he's your grandpa, but the university has no obligation to humor Watson just because he is old. 90+ year old Nazis are still being tried for their crimes.