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What if Watson had said "Apes evolved from man"?

Gregory A Petsko

Genome Biology 2007, 8:113  doi:10.1186/gb-2007-8-11-113

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Evidence for racial differences?

Peter Uetz   (2007-12-10 10:45)  JCVI email

Petsko claims that "we have the data to refute the claims that one race is superior and another inferior or that gender is linked to intellectual fitness". Do we? Where is that data? On the contrary, I think there is evidence showing that some races are superior to others. Look at the 100 m Olympic finalists, they are pretty much all black. This is good evidence that black athletes are superior to white ones. Maybe there is a similar imbalance for academics. Same for sex. Men are undoubtedly much better at crime than women (aren't 90% of all inmates male?). Am I a racist? Hopefully not - I am even in a bi-racial relationship. But it is undeniable that there are differences between different populations. This is biology.

As long as these average differences are small (and they probably are) they have no predictive power for any individual and are thus useless. I see that these are very delicate issues and it may be risky to bring them up but there is no reason to avoid them. However, it shows that public opinion rather depends on emotion than on data.

Competing interests




Roger Bumgarner   (2007-12-10 10:45)  University of Washington

I have to say I agree with Greg on this one. Many, many people heard Dr. Watson make disparaging remarks - particularly about women - over a very long time, yet none took him publicly to task (at least not that I have witnessed). I have had many female scientists say to me statements similar to "he got away with chauvinism for so long, it's surprising that this is what he was called on". Any of us (and particularly those famous scientists of the same era), who saw him talk and said nothing about such comments were enablers. Not only did we do a disservice to others in the audiences of talks who may have been offended, we did a disservice to Watson himself.

Competing interests




Anne Carpenter   (2007-12-10 10:44)  Broad Institute email

Thanks for your open, honest, and insightful assessment of the situation and of human nature itself. In light of those who throughout history have risked or even given their lives in defense of worthy causes, the *least* we can do in the face of comments like Watson's is to speak up and do our scientific duty - demand logic and evidence.

Competing interests

None declared


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