'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Pseudo-Scientific Imperialism 

From today's Independent:

One of the world's most eminent scientists was embroiled in an extraordinary row last night after he claimed that black people were less intelligent than white people and the idea that "equal powers of reason" were shared across racial groups was a delusion.

James Watson, a Nobel Prize winner for his part in the unravelling of DNA who now runs one of America's leading scientific research institutions, drew widespread condemnation for comments he made ahead of his arrival in Britain today for a speaking tour at venues including the Science Museum in London.

The 79-year-old geneticist reopened the explosive debate about race and science in a newspaper interview in which he said Western policies towards African countries were wrongly based on an assumption that black people were as clever as their white counterparts when "testing" suggested the contrary. He claimed genes responsible for creating differences in human intelligence could be found within a decade.

The newly formed Equality and Human Rights Commission, successor to the Commission for Racial Equality, saidit was studying Dr Watson's remarks "in full". Dr Watson told The Sunday Times 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". He said there was a natural desire that all human beings should be equal but "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true".

It is a slick, icy slope. Deny the role of the European powers (and, later, the US) in destabilizing Africa, and you have to start searching for other reasons why the peoples of the continent are in such distress. Doctrines of racial inferiority that go back to Elizabethan times, if not earlier, remain well-suited to justify the continued economic exploitation of the continent by the G-8.

Most political analysts, though, balk at Watson's crude invocation of lesser intelligence for blacks. Instead, they characterize the peoples and governments of Africa as incorrigibly corrupt, a subtle, less offensive variation on the old, purportedly instinctive licentiousness associated with dark skin. It is really quite brazen, given the innovations in the practice of governmental corruption attributable to Bush and Blair.

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