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James Watson's greatest hits

Lest anyone imagine that the recent comments regarding race by James Watson, Nobel Prize-winning co-discoverer of DNA, not to mention board member of Seed Media Group, publisher of Seed magazine and ScienceBlogs, are in any way uncharacteristic of this particular scientist's descent into senescence: I've compiled this helpful guide to Dr. Watson's past utterances, all of which come from the one fact-checkable source I could find: a 2000 lecture delivered at Berkeley University. (Nature Medicine article on the same subject here.) * After showing images of women in bikinis and veiled Muslim women, he suggested that there is a link between exposure to sunlight and libido. Then he said, "That's why you have Latin lovers. You've never heard of an English lover. Only an English patient.'' * After showing a picture of Kate Moss, he asserted that thin people are unhappy and therefore ambitious. "Whenever you interview fat people, you feel bad, because you know you're not going to hire them,'' he added. * Fat people may also be more sexual, Watson asserted, because their bloodstreams contain higher levels of leptin. Update: People keep pointing out other incendiary things Watson has said in the past:
"If you are really stupid, I would call that a disease," says Watson, now president of the Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory, New York. "The lower 10 per cent who really have difficulty, even in elementary school, what's the cause of it? A lot of people would like to say, 'Well, poverty, things like that.' It probably isn't. So I'd like to get rid of that, to help the lower 10 per cent."
No doubt this is only the beginning of Watson's controversial utterances. He's about to go on tour to support his new book, Avoid Boring People: Lessons from a Life in Science, after all. As a Nobelist turned pundit, he's bound to be the darling of talk radio, if they'll even let him on. The only real question is why he's been given a pass for this long. I wonder what his various employers and associates will do in the wake of this embarrassment? (Update: Cold Spring Harbor has begun distancing themselves from his comments -- see their press release on the subject. Ditto the Federation of American Scientists.) Razib over at Gene Expression has an interesting take on the whole mess.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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