I’ve used this quote before, but it bears repeating.
“Alas, to wear the mantle of Galileo it is not enough that you be persecuted by an unkind establishment, you must also be right.”
““ Robert Park
James Watson, famous for being one of the scientists to describe the structure of DNA, is a cranky old fart who has had a reputation in recent years for saying bizarre, offensive and, most importantly, scientifically unsubstantiated statements about a variety of groups that he has “Othered”. So now he does it again and finally some institutions that had been enjoying the prestige of having a Nobel Prize winner on their letterhead have decided that any association with Watson is more trouble than it’s worth.
Predictably, some people are, in the name of defending academic freedom, comparing Watson being ejected from the gravy train he’s been getting a free ride on since the 60s with the persecution of Galileo.
Apparently Watson hasn’t authored any scientific papers since the 60s. He’s not doing any research that could be suppressed: he was on a speaking tour to tout his memoirs. He’s just an unpleasant personality who is overdue for putting out to pasture. Enjoy your retirement, old man.
As to the whole argument about “intelligence” variations between groups of humans, everyone who makes this argument points only to studies of IQ results, as if we have (a) adequately defined what intelligence actually is and (b) IQ tests adequately measure every aspect of intelligence. The limitations of IQ tests should be obvious to anyone who actually thinks a little bit about them, but it was summed up very well in American Psychologist in 1996:
It is widely agreed that standardized tests do not sample all forms of intelligence. Obvious examples include creativity, wisdom, practical sense, and social sensitivity; there are surely others. Despite the importance of these abilities we know very little about them: how they develop, what factors influence that development, how they are related to more traditional measures.
Apart from all these limitations in the adequacy of IQ tests, how does one go about conducting a study that effectively controls for complex social aspects influencing people’s cognitive performance separate from their racial heritage?
People like IQ tests because they look all objective, being a number and all. But the creator of the first ever IQ test, Alfred Binet, expressed reservations about how easily IQ scores could be misused as an alleged measure of absolute intellectual capacity instead of a test limited to demonstrating correctable deficits in knowledge acquisition skills.
Binet himself cautioned against misuse of the scale or misunderstanding of its implications. According to Binet, the scale was designed with a single purpose in mind; it was to serve as a guide for identifying students who could benefit from extra help in school. His assumption was that a lower IQ indicated the need for more teaching, not an inability to learn. It was not intended to be used as “a general device for ranking all pupils according to mental worth.” Binet also noted that “the scale, properly speaking, does not permit the measure of intelligence, because intellectual qualities are not superposable, and therefore cannot be measured as linear surfaces are measured.” Since, according to Binet, intelligence could not be described as a single score, the use of his Intelligence Quotient (IQ) as a definite statement on a child’s intellectual capability would be a serious mistake.
Other people took Binet’s work, adapted it and asserted that intelligence was an innate and immutable quality, that their IQ tests measured it accurately, and that population-wide assessment of IQ would be of great value to society. The assessment industry today is worth a lot of money, and it is in the financial and professional interest of a lot of people to keep on representing IQ tests as a gold standard method of assessing human intelligence.
Just because something has a number score doesn’t mean that it is either objective or accurate.