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James Watson was an idiot because he based his claims on Bell Curve type rubbish that has been long discredited. The problem then comes that if he's still citing it 25 years after it was trashed, then it means that he's hanging around with unsavoury people who still cling to this. Which says a lot more about his prejudices than it does about black people.

There may be something useful to say about intelligence across populations, but it has to be evidence-based and very careful to eliminate cultural processes and migrations. So far such research has not been attempted because the methodologies invovled are too complex.

And if black people can throw up the odd Gandhi and Mandela, whilst white people keep throwing up Limbaughs and Tebbits, I'm not really sure there's a lot to establish.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Aug 26th, 2008 at 02:44:30 PM EST
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James Watson was an idiot because he based his claims on Bell Curve

The issue is not with the fact that you might label him an idiot or not.
The issue is that he made a statement and suddenly was uninvited from lots of conferences and "retired". Stupid statement = massive consequences.

This is a lot about externalities:

Now forget about Watson a bit and think on any person that might have something interesting to contribute about the said topic (cognitive differences between human populations), that person might be so inclined - because of perceived consequences - to avoid addressing the issue. Even if the person decides to go forward others might be inclined to ignore the person (say, avoid publishing the opinion).

With time, people will naturally and unconsciously avoid those issues (might hurt their career, reputation, social life, ...).

There should be some tolerance for opinions that are way off the mark. Calling him an idiot, that is OK. "Retiring" and uninviting a person because of them, is too much. Not only because of the said person, but because of the consequences to us all, and the perceived freedom that we have.

PS (regarding Watson) - Irrespective of stupid comments and most probably underlying crude racism - and classism [1] - I do think that opinions like these are worthwhile considering. Unfortunately this opinion is voiced by a person that seems to be, simultaneously, a crude racist.

[1] People are so preoccupied in pointing that the guy is a racist that they seem to not notice that he is also very classist.

by t-------------- on Wed Aug 27th, 2008 at 12:05:05 PM EST
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I think we approach the same solution from different directions. My point is not that there are not possibly interesting things to say about race and intelligence (if race can properly be said to exist in a population as genetically similar as humans), but that if you're going to say such things in these politically consequential times, you need to have better evidence than Bell Curve bullshit.

Nobody has done such studies as the methodology doesn't even exist. We can argue it might be difficult to establish funding to develop such methodologies because the field has such a history of dishonest intentions that anybody would suspect the motivations involved.

But, to repeat my point, Watson was a fool, not just because he cited discredited research, but because the fact that he gave such research credibility says an awful lot about the company he keeps. And classist almost certainly comes in with that.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Aug 28th, 2008 at 06:47:46 AM EST
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