The insidious effects of scientific investigations into race

John Horgan in Scientific American:

A dozen years ago I flew to Europe to speak at a conference on science’s limits. The meeting’s organizer greeted me with a tirade about James Watson, co-discoverer of the double helix, who had just stated publicly that blacks are less intelligent than whites. “All our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours,” Watson told a journalist, “whereas all the testing says not really.”

At first I thought my host, a world-famous intellectual whose work I admired, was condemning Watson. But no, he was condemning Watson’s critics, whom he saw as cowards attacking a courageous truth-teller. I wish I could say I was shocked by my host’s rant, but I have had many encounters like this over the decades. Just as scientists and other intellectuals often reveal in private that they believe in the paranormal, so many disclose that they believe in the innate inferiority of certain groups.

That 2007 incident came back to me as I read Superior: The Return of Race Science by British journalist Angela Saini (who is coming to my school Nov. 4, see Postscript). Superior is a thoroughly researched, brilliantly written and deeply disturbing book.

More here.