(AFP) – Oct 18, 2007
LONDON (AFP) — A leading British museum has cancelled a talk by a Nobel Prize-winning scientist from the United States who reportedly claimed that black people are less intelligent than whites, it said Thursday.
The Science Museum in London had been due to host a lecture on Friday by Doctor James Watson, who won the Nobel prize for medicine in 1962 for his part in discovering the structure of DNA.
But it pulled the event after Watson told the Sunday Times newspaper that 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".
Watson's comments have prompted a storm of criticism in Britain -- the government's Skills Minister David Lammy, who is black, said the comments were "deeply offensive" and would provide oxygen for far-right political parties.
"It is a shame that a man with a record of scientific distinction should see his work overshadowed by his own irrational prejudices," he added.
Professor Steven Rose, a neurobiologist from the Open University, said Watson's comments were "old fashioned and have no scientific validity".
"He's notorious over a long history of his life in shooting from the hip and making remarks which are racist, sexist, homophobic, profoundly offensive," he told BBC radio.
"He is speaking in an area in which he has no competence."
Discussing Watson's comments would be like debating "whether the moon is made of green cheese," he added.
A spokesman for the Science Museum said that Watson's comments had "gone beyond the point of acceptable debate".
Watson, the 79-year-old chancellor of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York state in the US, is in Britain to promote his new book "Avoid Boring People: Lessons From A Life In Science".
The Independent newspaper quoted the book as containing further comments on the issue: "There is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically," it reportedly says.
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