RE: [xmca] Nobel prize talks stupid things about human intelligence

From: Amanda Brovold <abrovold who-is-at>
Date: Sat Oct 20 2007 - 16:26:27 PDT

Just for the record, it sounds to me as if Watson has suggested he may have
been misquoted. In the article linked to 3 messages below he says: "I can
understand much of this reaction. For if I said what I was quoted as
saying, then I can only admit that I am bewildered by it. To those who have
drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow
genetically inferior, I can only apologise unreservedly. This is not what I
meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no scientific basis
for such a belief." I am not sure why the first two sentences of this quote
are generally left off when it is repeated. Such common occurrences though
(even on this very list) lead me to believe it is plausible that what Watson
said my not have been as appalling as what has been passed around makes it
seem. I agree that it seems certain he has a view I very much disagree with
and seems to be contradicted by the preponderance of evidence. However, I
find un-thoughtful knee-jerk responses to such views to be at least as
dangerous as the views themselves. I have heard people stress that it is
important for academics to respond appropriately to events such as these. I
very much agree, it is important for experts in the relevant fields to
correct any misunderstandings that stories like this are likely to
perpetuate. It is also extremely important though for the academy to
remember that academic freedom is absolutely vital. As appalling as views
expressed by one academic may be, the expression of controversial view
points simply cannot be allowed to threaten the protections necessary for
inquiry to be carried out.

Something else to consider, phrased a different way, I feel confident that
many people outraged by Watson's remarks would agree that in fact there are
differences in the intelligences of different people, often correlated with
differences in culture. These are not differences in terms of one being
overall superior to another, but I do not think that reading is forced by
the words that have been quoted without context, even if they are accurate.
It is at least possible that Watson, as he now seems to claim, really meant
to refer to differences without evaluating them. And isn't the recognition
of the complexity of intelligence one of the things that makes many of the
outraged so upset about IQ testing?


-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of Tony Whitson
Sent: Saturday, October 20, 2007 12:29 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Nobel prize talks stupid things about human intelligence

I'm not especially interested in defending Summers, but there is a
difference that I think is worth noting: Watson said the evidence all
points to his conclusion; Summers said there's a hypothetical possibility
that may be worth considering.

I agree with David as to "inference." Watson says it's not what he meant;
but he hasn't (I think couldn't) explained what else his words could mean.
He has not claimed that he was misquoted.

While it may be hard for evidence decisively to disprove inequality, it
seems to me that the rise of IQ scores from generation to generation
within populations makes it pretty much impossible to think that IQ scores
are a measure of differences in innate genetically-determined

On Sat, 20 Oct 2007, David Preiss wrote:

> E. and others,
> Honestly...
> Watson´s apologies sound more like "damage control" to me and I would add
> there is no need to make any inference from his words to conclude that his
> statements were blatantly racist.
> Blame his age, blame his time: for me, he just went out of the closet as
> regards his political views. And, what people might consider a mob
reaction, I
> would consider as the adequate response to prejudice.
> We are not talking here about a guy that is defending a scientific truth,
> as Galileo, Coppernicus, Bruno or many other real heroes; we are talking
> a guy that is lending his scientific credentials to a way of thinking that
> supported appartheid and many other abhorrent policies in the US and
> elsewhere.
> As regards L. Summers, I think he just made the same kind of stupid thing
> he misused current day evolutionary psychology to target women in science.
> When there are so may intersting things that you can say to well lead an
> institution and you pick just the one that is the most divisive, the most
> insensitive, you are not only a bigot, you are the worst leader of all.
> David
> E. Knutsson escribió:
>> Well, the issue here is (at least from my point of view) in part how the
>> media works ("sanctimonious mob reaction" being the outcome of a growing
>> panic). The issue is also whether academe should close ranks and support
>> sanctimonious current, or whether it should bide its time and aspire to
>> mobilize some kind of rational, temperate counterweight to the usual
>> chain reaction.
>> According to this article:
>> ... he has said that: "To those who have drawn the inference from my
>> that
>> Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only
>> unreservedly. This is not what I meant. More importantly from my point of
>> view,
>> there is no scientific basis for such a belief."
>> "This is not a discussion about superiority or inferiority, it is about
>> seeking
>> to understand differences, about why some of us are great musicians and
>> great engineers."
>> "[S]cience is not here to make us feel good."
>> Perhaps he was misquoted, who knows? He is 79 years old, a grand old man.
>> Should every non-conformist specimen of the species be ostracized for
>> wrong or misquoted? How would the history of science look like without
>> scientists making mistakes? Who wants to cast the first dogmatist stone?
>> E.
>> On 2007-10-20, at 18:21, Mike Cole wrote:
>>> Yes, there is a kind of sanctimonious mob reaction to Watson's remarks.
>>> We have been here before with THIS issue and one does not have to go
>>> to Latin. We might start with Larry Summers re gender.
>>> The crux of the matter seems to me to be the following in Watson's case:
>>> "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence
>>> the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really".
>>> The "them" appears to apply to people of African decent, which includes
>>> everyone
>>> on XMCA if one wants to take that implication seriously, but really, to
>>> people who
>>> remained in Africa (a hugelyl heterogeneous continent) when our more
>>> immediate
>>> predecessors migrated elsewhere, including the Australian outback, the
>>> of Norway, and
>>> island of Hokaido (for whom similar claims have been made).
>>> In my view, the man is badly misinformed. "The testing" he refers to
>>> not like the kind of test for
>>> genetic markers, HIV, etc that he is used to dealing with, and scholars
>>> like Sternberg and Grigorenko,
>>> following on a long line of work (the early history of which is traced
by SJ
>>> Gould, Gustav Jahoda, in my monograph
>>> of 1996, the Handbook of Cross Cultural Psychology, where the work of
>>> Serpell, and others
>>> is described says NO SUCH THING.
>>> However, if he wants to site literature to support his point of view, he
>>> find it. Arthur Jensen has retired
>>> but he has not disappeared. Nor have some other behavioral geneticists
>>> make the same argument.
>>> I would not be surprised to see them surface in his defense as time
>>> We will see.
>>> Remind me not to make ill informed pronouncements about DNA that offend
>>> people's deep beliefs.
>>> mike
>>> On 10/20/07, Wolff-Michael Roth <> wrote:
>>>> I don't want to be overly picky, but it is "rero" (Lat. for accused)
>>>> not "reo," as I seem to be recalling from my Latin lessons some 40
>>>> years ago. :-)
>>>> Cheers,
>>>> Michael
>>>> On 19-Oct-07, at 11:43 PM, E. Knutsson wrote:
>>>> In dubio pro reo? No doubt! Immediate crucifixion! And where is
>>>> Barabbas? Or
>>>> Giordano Bruno?
>>>> On 2007-10-19, at 15:55, David Preiss wrote:
>>>>> In his Sunday Times interview, Dr James Watson was quoted 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 was further quoted as saying that his hope was that everyone was
>>>>> equal but that "people who have to deal with black employees find
>>>>> this is not true".
>>>>> Just disgusting, racist, horrible...
>>>>> David
>>>>> David Preiss, Ph.D.
>>>>> Subdirector de Extensión y Comunicaciones
>>>>> Escuela de Psicología
>>>>> Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
>>>>> Av Vicuña Mackenna 4860
>>>>> Macul, Santiago
>>>>> Chile
>>>>> Fono: 3544605
>>>>> Fax: 3544844
>>>>> e-mail:
>>>>> web personal:
>>>>> web institucional:
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>> _______________________________________________
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> --
> David D. Preiss Ph.D.
> Profesor Auxiliar / Assistant Professor
> Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
> Escuela de Psicología.
> Av. Vicuña Mackenna 4860.
> Macul, Santiago de Chile.
> Chile
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Tony Whitson
UD School of Education

"those who fail to reread
  are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
                   -- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)

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Received on Sat Oct 20 16:30 PDT 2007

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