November 18, 2007

Speak No Evil

James WatsonJames Watson, the scientist who contributed a lot in the discovery of the structure of the DNA, had to retire from the post of chancellor of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), Long Island, New York, USA. The Nobel Laureate was gloomy about the prospects of Africa, as Africans were less intelligent, (according to him). This 'racial' comment sparked a furore and he had to resign from the laboratory that he himself helped establish.
True, that the IQ tests are not foolproof and they may give false negative results from an African perspective. At the same time we are surprised to find almost no representation in the field of science from this continent. One might argue that they do not have any access to modern science, even adequate nutrition and so on, and that is why they are not inclined towards science. But what about African-Americans; have they shown any significant improvement over their African counterparts? I know you might say that science wasn't the sole yardstick to quantify intelligence, and Nobel Peace prize winners (or even in literature) could still be found there. Well, you have your own logic but so did James's.

William Bradford ShockleyWilliam Bradford Shockley, the co-inventor of transistor, who went on to win the Nobel prize in physics in 1956, was an eugenics activist later in his life. He also thought that there was a connection between race and intelligence. He, like Watson, was reprimanded for this stance.

While there is a possibility that both of them may be wrong, they may be right too. Rather than burying our head in an 'ostrich policy' and 'censor and censure' these statements, why don't we search for the truth instead? These Nobel laureates are not fools anyway. We try to strangulate the cloning research by the same logic (ethical issues are also there), but for whose benefit?

Recently, researchers at the University of Florida, led by Marta Wayne, said that men were genetically simpler and for this reason they evolved faster. Could it be termed sexist by our moral police? Women have two X chromosomes (in addition to 22 pairs of autosomes), and any alteration in either of these two sex chromosomes, will be counterbalanced by the other unaffected X chromosome. This is not so in males who have one X and one Y chromosome (instead of two X chromosomes in females); Y chromosome being much shorter, it can not counter the mutation. Hence, in males, such mutation will give rise to evolution, due to this selection pressure. It will remain a fact no matter who says what.
I do not necessarily support their statements but I am open minded. The judgment may not go in favor of me or that of the Africans or the Ashkenazi jews, but let truth be out for the sake of science and humanity.
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