Dr. Watson, is racism in your DNA?

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Never mind the bumbling Seinfeld promo. Let’s talk real racism from a prominent, highly heralded member of society.

Like many of you, I read The Double Helix in school. Like many of you, I haven’t given Dr. James Watson a whole lot of thought since then.

Until now. The legendary scientist, who won the Nobel for his part in discovering the structure of DNA, is currently promoting a new book titled Avoid Boring People: Lessons from a Life in Science. In an interview he gave to Britain’s The Sunday Times, titled “Black people ‘less intelligent’ scientist claims,” he said some startling things:

The 79-year-old geneticist said 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 said he hoped that everyone was equal, but countered that “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”.

Say what?

Turns out Watson’s been spouting garbage like this for some time. The resulting uproar caused the muck-loving press there to dig up previous statements (in the Daily Mail):

And he is no stranger to controversy, reportedly saying that a woman should have the right to abort her unborn child if tests could determine it would be homosexual.

He has also suggested a link between skin colour and sex drive, proposing a theory that black people have higher libidos.

In addition, he also stated that beauty could be genetically manufactured, saying: “People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would be great.”

So here’s a man who’s done great, even revolutionary, work. He helped discover the structure of DNA, among the greatest single scientific breakthroughs of the 20th century. And he’s been recognized for it, sharing the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with colleagues Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins. Over the past decades, he’s been director of the Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory on Long Island, N.Y., a world leader in research into cancer and genetics.

But he’s long been known in the scientific community to make racist, sexist and just plain crazy statements. In a speech he gave at Berkeley seven years ago:

During his talk, Watson suggested that there was a biochemical link between exposure to sunlight and sexual urges.

Black people had more powerful libidos, he said. This was supported by the fact that when the skin of a number of white men had turned black as a side-effect of a scientific test, they had immediately become sexually aroused.

“That’s why you have Latin lovers,” he explained. “You’ve never heard of an English lover. Only an English patient.”

He went on to show a slide of a melancholy Kate Moss, saying that thin people were unhappy and therefore more ambitious.

“Whenever you interview fat people, you feel bad because you know you’re not going to hire them,” Watson said.

Some boss. Some scientist. Some hero.