Do James Watson’s apology and resignation in disgrace from his post at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory lay to rest his troubling legacy? The world now knows about the blatant racism of the twentieth century’s most famous geneticist. Those tracking the story have also learned of Watson’s other assorted bigotries - his denigration of “ugly girls,” “stupid” children, and “fat people”; his endorsement of paying rich people to have more children and aborting affected fetuses when tests for a “gay gene” are developed.
But that’s not all. Though neither media nor blogosphere have emphasized it so far, Watson - and a small but disturbing number of other prominent figures - have over the past decade been actively promoting a renewed program of eugenics, this time using twenty-first century reproductive and genetic technologies.
The new eugenics crowd is hardly coy. Various among them have explicitly endorsed “seizing control of our [human] evolutionary future” and “engineering the human germline.” Back in 1998 they held a high-profile conference - covered on the front pages of the New York Times and Washington Post - to plan how to make this high-tech eugenics “acceptable” to the American public.
At that event, Watson called for “mak[ing] better human beings” by “add[ing] genes.” A few years later, he wrote that “Hitler’s use of the term Master Race” should not make us “feel the need to say that we never want to use genetics to make humans more capable than they are today.”
We’ve accumulated an impressive number of other revealing Watsonisms. Please send us more; we’ll add them to our collection.
Watson’s World by Jesse Reynolds