Don’t miss Michael Gerson’s column in today’s Washington Post. Here’s a snippet:
James Watson, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who helped discover the structure of DNA in 1953, recently pronounced the entire population of Africa genetically inferior when it comes to intelligence. And while he hopes that everyone is equal, “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.”
Watson’s colleagues at the Federation of American Scientists found his comments “racist, vicious and unsupported by science” — all true. But they could not have found those views surprising. In 2003, Watson spoke in favor of genetic selection to eliminate ugly women: “People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would be great.” In 2000, he suggested that people with darker skin have stronger libidos. In 1997, Watson contended that parents should be allowed to abort fetuses they found to be gay: “If you could find the gene which determines sexuality and a woman decides she doesn’t want a homosexual child, well, let her.” In the same interview, he said, “We already accept that most couples don’t want a Down child. You would have to be crazy to say you wanted one, because that child has no future.”
When it comes to the parents of disabled children, Watson has somehow confused “loving” and “courageous” with “crazy” — the sign of a heart clearly inferior to the gentle hearts of children with Down syndrome. And most of us have met women who don’t look like models and gay people who prefer being alive to the preferences of their parents.
“If you really are stupid,” Watson once contended, “I would call that a disease.” What is the name for the disease of a missing conscience?
Watson is not typical of the scientific community when it comes to his extreme social application of genetics. But this controversy illustrates a temptation within science — and a tension between some scientific views and liberalism.
The temptation is eugenics. Watson is correct that “we already accept” genetic screening and selective breeding when it comes to disabled children. About 90 percent of fetuses found to have Down syndrome are aborted in America. According to a recent study, about 40 percent of unborn children in Europe with one of 11 congenital defects don’t make it to birth.
Read the rest here: “The Eugenics Temptation” â€“ by Michael Gerson (Washington Post)