Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Disturbing Idea of the Day

I found this article the other day, and it's been sitting on my desktop for the last three days while I ponder the irony and the horror of it.

The book I'm still reading "Black, White and Indian - Race and the Unmaking of an American Family" by Claudio Saint is at times very difficult to get through. The author is unflinching in his presentation of some very disturbing facts, and sometimes the sheer emotional connotations of what he's writing about make me have to put the book down.

There are the initial feelings of rage, of horror. Of "Goddamn but I hate white people and all they did" and "Goddamn but the Indians weren't much better" except that it's not that simple. Not at all. There was money to be made--lots and lots of money even by today's standards, and there was survival to be fought for, and there was the human need to quantify our existence. And the equally human trait to quantify ourselves at the expense of some one else.

Often, humans use two things to justify what we're doing to ourselves and to each other: God, and Science. Sometimes, both at the same time, if we fancy ourselves sophisticated.

I had just gotten through reading some passages of the book, describing how in the 1830's and 1840's, "science" got into the slavery debate. There got to be the "science" of phrenology, "...a discipline that would be discredited only decades after it's emergence. Phrenologists divided the brain into thirty-five different faculties or organs and from the shape and size of the skull presumed to determine the subject's character and intelligence." What the Wiki entry glosses over is how phrenologists of the day robbed countless Indian graves for skulls to prove that the Indians were inferior and so therefore "...The years of his race are not only numbered; they are comparatively few."

According to George Combe, touring the US in the late 1830's and conducting "brief studies", the Indians were "deficient in Conscientiousness, Benevolence, and Ideality" and concluded that Indians were "inferior to their Anglo-Saxon invaders, and receded before them."

So, imagine my interest in this piece of drivel:

Race remarks get Nobel winner in trouble

James Watson: Tests show Africans are not as intelligent as Europeans

LONDON - London's Science Museum canceled a Friday talk by Nobel Prize-winning geneticist James Watson after the co-discoverer of DNA's structure told a newspaper that Africans and Europeans had different levels of intelligence.

James Watson provoked widespread outrage with his comments to The Sunday Times, which quoted the 79-year-old American as saying 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."

He told the paper he hoped that everyone was equal, but added: "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true."

The comments drew condemnation from British lawmakers, scientists, and civil rights campaigners. On Wednesday The Independent newspaper put Watson on its front page, against the words: "Africans are less intelligent than Westerners, says DNA pioneer."

Watson, who serves as chancellor of the renowned Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., was to deliver a sold-out lecture at the Science Museum, but on Wednesday night the institution said Watson's comments had gone too far and the event had been canceled.

Calls to Watson's book publisher and his office in New York were not immediately returned.

This is not the first time Watson's speaking engagements have caused a stir.

History of controversial comments
The Independent catalogued a series of controversial statements from Watson, including one in which he reportedly suggested women should have the right to have abortions if tests could determine their children would be homosexual.

In 2000 Watson shocked an audience at the University of California, Berkeley, when he advanced a theory about a link between skin color and sex drive.

His lecture, complete with slides of bikini-clad women, argued that extracts of melanin — which give skin its color — had been found to boost subjects' sex drive.

"That's why you have Latin lovers," he said, according to people who attended the lecture. "You've never heard of an English lover. Only an English patient."

Telephone and e-mail messages left with the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory after business hours Wednesday were not immediately returned.

*sigh*.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.... I mean you could argue logically how this isn't true; point to thousands and thousands of examples on both sides that would prove this idea isn't even remotely logical. But yet... somebody believes it. Mr. Watson certainly does.

And the ironic thing is, looking at the picture of a watery-blue-eyed-pale-faced Mr. Watson, my MeanNasty Little Voice says snidely "Humph. Fitting. He looks like somebody who would believe that shit."

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