By Mike Nizza It turns out that the Nobel-winning geneticist who was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” is inherently 16 percent African, or an amount of “someone who had a great-grandparent who was African,” according to a scientist who made the discovery.
Two months ago, Dr. James Watson, who helped crack the D.N.A. code decades ago, apologized for suggesting black people, over all, are not as intelligent as whites. He also resigned as chancellor of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island.
“There are many people of color who are very talented,” he said. The comment, we now know, applied to 16 percent of him as well.
He also tried to stamp out any further talk by saying that “there is no scientific basis for such a belief.” Still, a debate erupted online when a Slate writer offered an academic defense of the claim that started the furor. Critics are still piling on, with Malcolm Gladwell being the latest in this week’s New Yorker.
Richard E. Nisbett, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, offered another thorough rebuttal in a New York Times Op-Ed, “All Brains Are the Same Color.” “The evidence heavily favors the view that race differences in I.Q. are environmental in origin, not genetic,” he proposed. Dr. Watson set himself up for this ironic moment by agreeing earlier this year to be the first person to publish his genetic code for all to study. But he won’t be the last, as companies race to create relatively cost-effective ways to bring D.N.A. publishing to the masses. Those who join Dr. Watson in complete D.N.A. openness may be wise to remember two lessons from this episode: think before you speak, and also try to memorize all six billion letters of your genetic code.