A SCIENTIST who this week claimed that black people are less intelligent than whites is still to speak at Newcastle’s Centre for Life despite his controversial comments.
Dr James Watson, who has been patron of the Centre for Life since 1998, is to attend an interview with The Observer’s science editor Robin McKie on Sunday at the science attraction.
He made the comments earlier this week.
The 79-year-old American geneticist, who won a Nobel prize in the 1960s for his part in discovering the structure of DNA, said it was an uncomfortable truth that black people are inherently less intelligent than whites, angering human rights groups around the globe.
But the Centre for Life’s chief executive Linda Conlon said there were no plans to cancel Dr Watson’s visit, a policy which has been condemned by one of the city’s leading academics.
Ms Conlon said: “The planned appearance of Dr James Watson at Newcastle’s Centre for Life will go ahead this Sunday, October 21.
“James Watson has been a regular visitor to Life and has often been outspoken and controversial. His views are not those held by the centre, but many people are keen to hear what he has to say.
“If we felt his visit would damage the reputation of the centre or we felt his views were really outrageous, then we would have no problem in cancelling. He is known for being controversial.”
Ms Conlon said more than 350 people were expected to attend what she described as a good, robust debate on Sunday. But Newcastle University professor Anoop Nayak, who specialises in social change, ethnicity and race, racist violence, anti-racism and the concept of Englishness or whiteness, condemned the Centre for Life for failing to ensure Dr Watson could be challenged by an expert in the field of race theory and genetics.
He said: “I don’t think it’s healthy for a centre that promotes itself as a learning centre for children to give this man a platform to air his views without giving specialists in the field he has been talking about an equal platform with him.”
Dr Watson was quoted as saying this week that he was, “gloomy about Africa”, stating: “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 apparently said he hoped everyone was equal, but added: “People who have to deal with black employees find this not true.”
Prof Nayak said: “I fundamentally disagree with him. This isn’t even his field of expertise and there is an enormous amount of research on race differences and intelligence with about 99% of scientists agreeing there is no difference.”
The most famous of all civil rights activists Dr Martin Luther King Jnr was awarded an honorary degree in civil law from Newcastle University and Prof Nayak said: “Recently the city has been commemorating the abolition of the slave trade from a local angle and I don’t feel a visit from Dr Watson is particularly in keeping with the times. I wouldn’t condone what he says.”
James Watson’s Centre for Life interview is part of a tour to promote his latest book, Avoid Boring People.