The other day I received a new chargea long-standing scandal that erupted around the statement of the Nobel laureate, the discoverer of the structure of DNA, James Watson. It all started with his 2007 statement: “I am deeply depressed about the prospects for Africa. Our entire social policy assumes that their intelligence is the same as ours, although all studies say that this is not so. Those who have had to deal with black employees are convinced that the equality of intelligence is not true. There are quite a few very gifted people among people of color, but don’t promote them if they haven’t done well at a basic level. We have no firm reason to believe that the intellectual abilities of people, divided geographically in the process of evolution, developed in exactly the same way. Our desire to endow everyone with equal opportunities of reason as some kind of universal heritage of mankind is not enough to
When this statement made a splash, he publicly and “unconditionally” apologized, and since then has hardly appeared in public. He was no longer invited to perform. But recently in an interview, he suddenly, in essence, confirmed everything he said earlier. He was immediately stripped of his honorary titles at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, which he once headed. “Dr. Watson’s statements are reprehensible, not supported by science and in no way reflect the views of the laboratory, its trustees, faculty, staff or students,” the statement said .
Watson was heavily criticized by both the scientific community and the public at large. And what exactly does science say about this?
In fact, science has something to say. The main problem is that this science is a racial science, and in the West – both in the United States and in Western Europe – this discipline has practically died out since about 1950-60s. Science organizers and opinion leaders decided that by banning race research, racism could be avoided. After all, it is logical – there are no races, there is no racism.
Is it logical? In practice, things turned out differently. Racials are the only people who understand the biological diversity of humanity. It is they who can reasonably prove and show, explain and chew, what exactly are the differences between races, why they cannot be divided into “lower” and “higher”, why racism is bad (and racism is very bad!).
In the absence of scientific immunity in the form of racial specialists, racism flourished
Censorship and prohibitions never led to any good, throwing from one extreme to another leads to an extreme. Western society also fell into this trap. With water – racism – they threw out the child – racism. In the absence of scientific immunity in the form of racial specialists, racism flourished.
A biologist and a chemist, even a genius, even one who made the greatest discovery, is still not an anthropologist. And with this in mind, and should be considered his statement. What is true in it and what is not?
What is “race”? This is a group of populations that have a common origin in a single area, which differs from other groups of populations by the history of the gene pool, which is reflected in a complex of biological inherited traits with interpopulation variability.
What is intelligence? Of course, there are hundreds of definitions, one of them, for example, is the ability to solve non-standard problems with non-standard methods. But this definition is clearly very elastic.
To begin with, let us note that intelligence is different: a person who can count well may not be able to communicate with people, a good writer does not have to be an excellent cook, an engineer may lack a sense of humor, a biologist may not be able to drive a car, and a chess player may not know foreign languages. There are as many examples as there are people. This was also verified in experiments: scientists bred genius rats and dumb rats according to their ability to pass the maze. The trait was inherited, but here’s the bad luck: “geniuses in labyrinths” were no better at solving problems of pressing buttons, and “labyrinthine dumbass” when solving new problems turned out to be nothing at all.
We still do not have a single measure of intelligence. The notorious IQ tests work well only for groups, in an average form and in a narrow range of tasks, but poorly – for individuals. These tests speak more about the intelligence of their creators than about those who are subjected to these tests.
How are race and intelligence related? Since racial traits are by definition inherited, then intellect should be inherited according to this logic. Of course, even if intelligence is inherited, this does not mean that it is related to race, because two inherited traits are not necessarily related. But is it inheritable at all?
To some extent, intelligence is, of course, inherited. This is evident at least from the fact that our ancestors – Australopithecus, Pithecanthropus and others – clearly had less intelligence than we do. Once there was evolution, there was selection, there was something to be selected for.
Geneticists have identified some genes, variants of which – alleles – determine excitability, memory, even the desire to learn. Since there are different variants of genes, it means that somewhere there will be more or less of them according to purely statistical laws, even without any selection. Relatively speaking, some populations will be “smarter” on average, while others will be “dumber”. But does this speak about the abilities of the races? Not at all!
First, there are obviously a lot of “genes of intelligence”, most of them are unknown today. If somewhere we have found few of some “smart genes”, there may be many others, just unknown to us yet. Plus, genes interact cunningly with each other. Quite often smart parents have children with mediocre intelligence, and geniuses are born in families of average peasants. Finally, genes interact with the environment and, under some conditions, may turn out to be “silent”, and under some conditions, they may be activated.
Secondly, different genes for intelligence are not related to each other, they can generally be located on different chromosomes. And even more so, they are not linked in any way with the racial characteristics that determine the color of the skin, the shape of the hair, nose, eyes and lips. What can we say – even the color of hair, eyes and skin, although it is determined by the same pigment melanin, can be different in different parts of the body of one person! You can be dark-eyed blond or light-eyed black, any other combination is possible. And how can this color, as well as the shape of the face, the proportions of the head and the growth of the beard, be related to intelligence?
Third, each race is made up of many populations, and each population is made up of many people. If somewhere there are more or less “stupid” genes on average, this does not say anything about a specific representative of this group. People are individual! This means that the logic “those who had to deal with black employees are convinced” has no right to exist, because none of us has dealt with such a significant number of representatives of any race that we could give average values for it (not to mention so that it would be nice to first measure the intelligence of the measurers themselves to be sure of their competence).
Finally, intelligence is not only determined by genes. Obviously, it is influenced by nutrition, climate, diseases, the presence or deficiency of vitamins, hormones, a variety of stresses, wars, education, environment, social situation, family situation … The factors are innumerable! They affect differently at different ages, but most of all, of course, in childhood. So, rickets can have a very negative effect on intelligence. For example, a study of Moscow schoolchildren showed that the best academic performance is noted in ecologically clean western regions, while in industrial eastern regions it is lame. The worst one is in the Kapotnya area, under a gas torch. But if there is at least one smoking parent in the family (even if he does not smoke at home, but on the street, on the balcony, at the entrance there are poor neighbors …), then it turns out like in the same Kapotnya.
Watson is wrong to judge the population of an entire continent by summarizing their abilities
So what’s wrong with James Watson’s statement? The fact that he judges the population of an entire continent (and probably does not know that several very different races live there), generalizing their abilities. “I am deeply depressed about the prospects for Africa. Our entire social policy is based on the fact that their intelligence does not differ from ours, while all studies say that in fact it is not. ” This phrase implies that there is “our” intellect (clearly the case is good), and there is “them” (obviously, it means bad).
But what about the research that Watson mentions? Yes, they were indeed carried out and did show a lower IQ, for example, of South African Africans compared to descendants of Europeans from the same country. But wait: was it because the results were such that the residents of Bantustans were compared with university graduates? Or recall the comparison of blacks in the United States with whites – there the results are similar. But wait: isn’t it because the last segregation law was only repealed in 1964? Half a century is a scanty time for social change and equalization of rights and freedoms. If my dad (born 1945) was black and was born under apartheid and segregation, would I become an anthropologist? I strongly doubt …
So what’s the bottom line? Watson is a great biologist. But he is not an anthropologist, and in the United States there are no racialists at all, so he had nowhere to get true information from, and his critics are illiterate. Watson is right about one thing and wrong about another, but it is impossible to know the truth without making mistakes. It is necessary to study nature. The connection between heredity and intelligence is an interesting topic. Races are reality. But what is their connection?
At the individual level, it is definitely not there, so one should judge a person not by skin color and face shape, but by objective qualities. Does a person have a lot of knowledge or is he stupid? Does he drive grandmothers across the street or rob people in the alley? Is he an altruist or an egoist? Merry fellow or ghoul? These traits are definitely not racial. So be realistic, think, use more actively our great evolutionary achievement – the new end-brain cortex – and everything will be fine!
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