Monday, December 01, 2014

James Watson, world's #1 biologist, mostly forced to sell Nobel medal

Many people have received a Nobel prize in medicine. Whom would you consider the most important living laureate?

Well, I think that there's very little doubt that James Watson, a co-discoverer of DNA and a co-winner of the 1962 Nobel prize in medicine, would be chosen by the largest number of respondents. Several years ago, James Watson would be declared an unperson for having pointed out – in a rather straightforward, unfiltered way – that different groups of people differ in their abilities, too. Note that the TRF blog post has attracted almost 200 comments.

Let me emphasize that he didn't join just the "Untermenschen". This hero of life sciences has joined the "Unpersons". He still gets some basic income related to his Academic career but he stopped receiving any other money – from talks etc. – and I find it conceivable, although not guaranteed to be true, that this man (who has probably gotten used to some luxury) is feeling some financial pressure and that's the reason why he decided to sell the Nobel prize medal and some related things through an auction, in a move that is expected to bring several million dollars to him. A part of the revenue would be sent to some of the institutions that have allowed his scientific research to proceed.

Well, maybe the poor 86-year-old man needs some publicity, too. But I am sure that there is some substance to the claim that he needs to sell the medal in order to restore his material well-being. If he wants to buy a David Hockney painting, well, it's perhaps necessary for him to sell the medal, indeed.

Recall that he has commented on the claims that people of races have the same intelligence by mentioning that "those who have to deal with black employees find this not true". It's harsh (I wouldn't use these straightforward words – perhaps because I was already brought up in a more PC atmosphere) but there are surely hundreds of millions of people in the world who say the same thing, at least in front of audiences they consider "safe".

In the morning, I happened to watch an entertaining monologue by the Amazing Atheist who analyzed a hardcore feminist rant titled I don't care if you landed a spacecraft on a comet, your shirt is sexist and ostracizing, with a title that sounds like a parody but it's apparently not.

Of course, what James Watson discussed is an issue that is very vaguely connected with some bad treatment of some people in the past and it is therefore much more sensitive, far-reaching, and potentially objectionable than some people's arbitrary dress codes and weird ideological interpretations of shirts. But of course that the two things have lots in common. Not even the greatest scientific advances are enough for certain scientists to be respected.

The degree of hatred towards this founder is intense. Hours ago, the left-wing British daily The Guardian posted the following rant by an individual calling himself Adam Rutherford:
He may have unravelled DNA, but James Watson deserves to be shunned
It's not exactly a friendly title. I mentioned Matt Taylor's shirtgate for another reason: this title is almost isomorphic to the title "I don't care if..." above. Those people simply put their fanatical PC ideology above everything else, including the greatest achievements of science, and they are proud about being blinded jihadists with no respect to general, non-ideological values.

Adam "Rutherford" is a nasty dirty pig and to treat his flesh as something else than $6-per-pound pork means to disrespect the basic principles of equality between all pigs. We are told:
His comments reveal a pernicious character entirely unrelated to his scientific greatness, but that is longstanding and not new.
I am sorry but the controversial questions that James Watson addressed 7 years ago are extremely closely related to his scientific greatness. It is about genetics. Organisms' and species' basic anatomy, physiology, and potential is encoded in the DNA molecule, and if it weren't the case, for example because the DNA molecule would be irrelevant for the further life, we wouldn't respect James Watson as the co-author of a groundbreaking discovery. Moreover, it's not just the DNA molecule. James Watson would lead to the Human Genome Project for years; only morons might think that this project has nothing to say about the abilities of individual humans and groups of humans. And incidentally, Watson's own DNA was among the first ones to be sequenced.

So whether you like it or not, Mr "Rutherford" (I had to use quotes because I find his last name insulting to the memory of Ernest Rutherford), what James Watson has to say about these issues is 1,000 times more supported by science and scientific achievements than your ideological rants.

Mr "Rutherford" also claims that Watson is a "sexist" because he would dedicate a few sentences in his book, The Double Helix, to the question whether Rosy (Rosalind Franklin) was attractive and whether she tried to make her more attractive. She was attractive, despite the strong features, and didn't want to increase this virtue. What is "sexist" about those things? Readers of such books surely want to know similar things, they're discussed whether or not this topic is included in books, and Watson was among those few people who knew Rosy more than almost everyone else.

The end of the article by "Rutherford" tries to suggest that Watson's interpretations are wrong:
“No one really wants to admit I exist” says Watson. That’s not it. It’s more that no one is interested in his racist, sexist views.
Oh, really? If no one is interested in Watson's views on these social questions, why do scumbags in The Guardian can't resist the urge to write these long rants whose only purpose is character assassination and demonization? And why do the discussions under these articles always attract a gigantic number of commenters?

The claim by "Rutherford" that James Watson deserves to be "shunned" is illogical, too. If someone shuns James Watson, he or she is making a grave mistake. If a "Rutherford" shuns people like James Watson, he only amplifies the fact that he is just a worthless stinky pig, not a human being who may meet James Watson as a fellow human being.


  1. The comments on Rosalind Franklin seem to indicate a fairly strained relationship. This isn't just about her looks.

    "Clearly Rosy had to go or be put in her place. The former was obviously preferable because, given her belligerent moods, it would be very difficult for Maurice [Wilkins] to maintain a dominant position that would allow him to think unhindered about DNA. . . . The thought could not be avoided that the best home for a feminist was in another person's lab."

  2. Racism is indeed a sensitive issue, but the attitudes towards differing average abilities of various groups are remarkably schizophrenic. If couched in a positive language, they often become more tolerable. Point out that the Jews get more Nobel prizes, and no one bats an eye. Point out that South and East Asians are very successful academically in the US, and there is no problem. Try to say that this just might mean that certain other groups are simply dumber than the Indians and the Chinese and get into trouble.

    Ultimately, everyone knows that such average differences do exist. The question is what the policy implications of this fact should be. And on that point, there is little agreement. Can't say I know the answer, but color-blindness seems to be the only fair approach, yet the "diversity" based approach, which is favored nowadays, is certainly not color-blind.

  3. I'm sick and tired of the politically correct mafia valuing mediocrity over excellence.

    They do not contribute to the cause of humanity by bringing exceptional people like James Watson to their knees, making them agree with whatever the fanciful consensus is nowadays on political issues, turning them into merely mediocre in that area.

    I want people like Watson to advance humanity forward through excellence. Progress comes through excellence, death and stagnation come by the way of equilibrium, equality, mediocrity.

  4. I think that your comment seems confused.

    The comments don't really talk about the relationship between Franklin and Watson - they were geometrically separated - but between Franklin and her lab's boss, Maurice Wilkins.

    That relationship was strained and Watson who was close enough makes it clear that the reason was Franklin's extremely obnoxious - he would even say "feminist" - behavior.

    Of course, the Franklin-Wilkins relationship had to have problems at many other levels. Throughout the 1951-52 period, Wilkins knew that the DNA was helical and Franklin was trying to fight against the insights, clearly due to her inferior expertise.

  5. Well, it's listed under "provocative comments" in the James Watson article so it would imply those were his opinions at some point in time.

    "In his book The Double Helix, Watson described being intimidated by Franklin and that they were unable to establish constructive scientific interactions during the time period when Franklin was doing DNA research. In the book's epilogue, written after Franklin's death, Watson acknowledges his early impressions of Franklin were often wrong, that she faced enormous barriers as a woman in the field of science even though her work was superb, and that it took them years to overcome their bickering before he could appreciate Franklin's generosity and integrity."

    It's of course more than likely that Watson got his initial impression from Wilkins. What seems to have started Franklin and Wilkins off on the wrong foot was management telling them both they were the boss of the DNA project.

    "Franklin ended up with the DNA from Signer, Gosling became her PhD student, and she had the expectation that DNA x-ray diffraction work was her project. Wilkins returned to the laboratory expecting, on the other hand, that Franklin would be his collaborator and that they would work together on the DNA project that he had started."

    I don't see anything about Wilkins being Franklin's lab's boss; just the assistant director of the biophysics unit.

  6. Well, they DID take her crystallography pics of DNA without her knowledge and without attribution. She was treated badly, but apparently she was difficult, as was Watson.
    This in no way excuses the treatment of Watson. He is arrogant, but unlike his inquisitors, actually says what he is thinking instead of playing "lets pretend" in PCspeak. People like him get things done----Craig Venter is a similar individual---type A, self-centred, blunt, but a dynamo who actually gets results...predictably they butted heads over the human genome.
    He also writes entertaining books--"The Double Helix" is still a fun read.
    Somehow we need to purge the universe of this PC infestation before all the interesting and productive people are infected---this is like a PC Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

  7. Dear JollyJoker,

    I have no idea what you want to say by pointing out that "they were his opinions at some point in time". Of course that what he wrote in his book were opinions.

    They were almost certainly (also) much more than just opinions - they were facts because the man knew well what he was writing about, didn't he?

    I don't understand the purpose of the fog about who was the boss. Obviously it's an easy check in the paperwork if one wants to find out who was the head of the lab, and it was Wilkins. If a manager says in a letter that she would be doing DNA work with her student, it surely doesn't make her a boss of the lab, does it?

    If you want documents saying that Wilkins was her boss, I can give you as many as you want. Search for "boss" at

    Feminists who want to spread fog about this elementary thing write "Wilkins was technically her 'boss' over there", see

    This is pathetic. The status of the "technical" boss is the only one that may matter. These formulations only mean that the writer want to deny the reality although she doesn't have the tiniest backing for this denial.


  8. So who suggested the double helix? and before that who suggested the helix?

  9. Dear Gordon, as the lab's boss, I would try to inform, promote, and thank the employee taking such a picture. Unless it would mean some dramatic extra problems.

    On the other hand, if someone happens to take a picture in your lab and she really has almost no clue what it means etc., it's at most a curiosity, isn't it?

    It's like if you have a small kid who accidentally uses your camera and takes a picture of some important phenomenon at the right moment. It's a great story. But you will surely take responsibility for the finding, won't you? It's your camera. The kid doesn't really have any legal or natural rights for the "ownership" of such a thing.

  10. Dear Avraham, Wilkins had accumulated enough evidence for a (single or unspecified) helix structure of DNA by November 1951. The best picture that was used was taken by Franklin in 1952. And a 1953 article by Watson and Crick in Nature summarized all the evidence to claim that there was a double helix DNA.

  11. FWIW, in the U.S. it's the person who pressed the button who gets the copyright for a picture.

  12. Right, in the U.S. copyright law, that would be Raymond Gosling. But the fact that the picture was actually physically taken by him isn't even know by the folks running this pro-Franklin hype.

    Robbing her students is the most tolerable tools when the means are robbing the bosses and discoverers of some of their credit. ;-)

  13. There is an interesting parallel between James Watson and Bill Shockley, who, along with John Bardeen and Walter Brattain, invented the transistor. That one invention has had a bigger impact on the way we live and work than any other single achievement. Shockley was a racist and so is Watson. I find that obvious and do not wish to initiate a discussion on TRF and I will not participate in one.

    It is, of course, deplorable, for either man to be shunned. Every human being deserves to be treated with respect and that certainly applies in spades to Shockley and Watson, who have done so very much for mankind. We are all vastly better off for their contributions and deep gratitude is the only proper attitude towards Shockley and Watson.

    Any one who feels that Watson is wrong has every right to argue (respectfully) with him but by anyone trying to cause harm to that man they is doing something profoundly evil. That, in fact, is close to the definition of “evil”.

  14. Dear Gene, for someone who "does not wish to initiate a discussion" on these matters, you have written quite a lot of provoking comments! ;-)

    Just to be sure, I have an instinctive repulsion from any policies resembling eugenics, I don't do these things. But when I listened to Shockley

    it is impossible for me not to say that what he is saying sounds well-thought and decent (and calm) at the same moment. And you know, why I belong to the "majority" who is not really developing any particular, ready-to-use plans or anything like that, I find it very likely that at some point in the future, someone will have to think about similar matters because there will be real problems resulting from the mechanisms he is describing.

  15. You are making her role more trivial than it was--- I wasn't suggesting she deserved to be included in the Nobel, but she deserved an acknowledgement. Surely you are not suggesting that colleagues rifle through your desk drawers and lift what they want without even asking. Linus Pauling was very close to revealing the structure, and without the dramatic effect of the crystallography pics on Francis Crick's brain, he may have had the insight first.

  16. Dear Gordon, while you admit that a discussion is at most about an acknowledgement, not a discovery, but it is me who is making her role trivial?

    I agree she deserved an acknowledgement.

    I have never had a boss of the kind that would own my manuscripts in the same sense as Wilkins owned photographs made in his lab. But I can still enumerate many papers that failed to acknowledge me, even though I am male, so someone's not acknowledging a female researcher is surely not substantial evidence supporting the idea that women were treated unfairly, is it?

  17. "Amen" ? for an atheist ;)

  18. Thanks, Lubos. I think the focus many commentators have on the previous experimental data suggesting a helical structure* is really missing the point of what Watson and Crick did. Their key contributions relied on the experimental evidence but were really theoretical proposals: that the nucleotide bases pair with each other on the inside of the double helix and that the A-T, G-C pairing can be the basis for heritable transmission of information. These key discoveries, the molecular basis of heredity, largely came as a flash of insight from Watson and Crick working with models and thinking about the function of DNA. They are just not obvious, even if 20 people had already published diffraction patterns showing a helix.

    *Still they should have cited Rosand Franklin and Maurice Wilkins.

  19. So the actual discovery of the helix and double helix is from Watson and Crick. Is that right?

  20. X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin discovered the "double helix." The boys pilfered her diffractogram. Nobels were awarded (1962) after Franklin was safely dead (1958) - wrong sex and ethnicity.

  21. ''Point out that the Jews get more Nobel prizes, and no one bats an eye'' - curiously enough, I've been following a discussion on German Wikipedia where any hint at ''Ashekanazim intelligence question'' actually IS being censored out of the resp. article ( by a couple of notorious far-left point-of-view pushers ( So some more ''far-sighted'' ultralefties seem to have grasped the ''threat'' this mere subject poses ;)

  22. Never said they were and don't believe it...just nice to be acknowledged for work that you do that is used by others.

  23. Every human being deserves to be treated with respect? What a strange notion. I haven't personally known utter scumbags, but I am pretty sure a good number of them are out there.

    Actually, one can choose to shun a racist. The problem is that this is not applied uniformly - some obvious racists (e.g., Al Sharpton) are the darlings of the media, and it's even racist to consider them to be racists, while other racists are shunned. Why the different treatment?

  24. Dear Gene, define "racist." Is it a moral category? If not, why is it so offensive? What do you call someone who believes that racial differences are real, and significant, but still believes in the equal importance of everybody's rights and interests?

  25. Shockley has the definition of “racist” wrong.

  26. It is not a moral judgement and it is not in the least offensive to me. It simply means that he thinks that black people are inferior. This is shown by many of Watson’s stated views; for instance, his worry about the future of Africa simply because it is populated by black people. He is, of course, entitled to his opinions. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    He has also clearly said that black inferiority can be established just by observing a group of black employees. The former is questionable and the latter is scientific nonsense.

    You are the one making this a hot-button, lukelea, not me. The definition of “racist” fits Watson and Shockley perfectly. A racist is simply someone who thinks that one race is inferior to another. That may or may not be true.

    I said nothing whatsoever about social policies. You need to get your emotions out of this and just look at the facts before you.

  27. "Shockley has the definition of “racist” wrong."

    Classic leftard stuff! Come on, Humpty, put your authoritative hat on and tell us what a racist really is then. Perhaps you could chuck in the reason as to why your definition trumps Shockley's too?

    I'll put it another way: I take it definitions are not just conventions in your book, and being of a scientific bent anyway you'd have no truck with appeals to authority, so where's nature writing up these things for us all to read? Or do we need priestly caste to do the divining thing, your Holiness?

  28. The fascinating aspect of the revisionism is that nobody actually bothers to read the publications. They are openly available:
    and the intellectual contributions are plainly visible. Please note authors and dates.

    The DNA structure was incidental to the major discovery - the elucidation of the chemical nature of heredity. If the DNA was a helix or a ladder or whatever is not even of secondary importance. In one stroke of genius Watson and Crick explained how DNA might carry information and how it might replicate that information.

    After reading the Franklin's paper, I am not sure she would get the insight even if she solved the structure at 1Å resolution. It was just not what she was interested in.

  29. Racism has a clear, unambiguous definition. Look it up.

  30. It is pure horse shit for you to claim that blacks are superior at the 100 meter sprint. There happen to be a couple of tribes/subcultures in Africa that have developed running skills but there are many more that have not.
    The reason that i did not want to engage in this discussion is that I did not want to deal with fools like you.

  31. This is old school feminist history that doesn't express the outright paranoid fantasy that has now taken over feminism that is merely using it as a front for revolutionary Marxism that when exposed is roundly laughed at by normal mentally healthy people. Thus is why #GamerGate and the #ShirtStorm backlash are so important in opening a floodgate of ridicule towards idiotic harpies and especially their “white knight” enablers. That the term “social Justice warrior” (SJW) has spread to conservative blogs to replace the uncomfortably aggressive term “feminazi” is new link between young libertarian liberals and libertarian conservatives.

    -=NikFromNYC=-, Ph.D. in chemistry (Columbia/Harvard), one time guest in James Watson’s Cold Spring Harbor mansion in the upstairs floor he rented to a students, one I failed to fully seduce that day, when James was away, on the sprawling campus that looks like just a bunch of houses with centrifuges in the basement, a former eugenics organization turned hard science operation.

  32. That wasn't very nice! There's really no need to be abusive.

    Just to get things clear for a moment, if I'm a fool then you're a complete cunt. Come to think of it, you're a complete cunt anyway, irrespective of my status as a fool. Happily for me though, I've managed to avoid your condition of blustering cuntitude, primarily because there's nothing of the cunt about me, unlike you who seem to have it woven into your DNA. By the way, it nicely complements that other notable characteristic of yours, namely that of being a insufferable prick too. So I suppose you can fuck yourself. That's handy, unless you're a dedicated wanker which you probably ... hey, I'm getting bored with this — my hearts not really in it today ... forgive me ... oh no, wait ... just one more ... you're also full of shit — see here:

    "It is pure horse shit for you to claim that blacks are superior at the 100 meter sprint."

    Really? How many blacks were gold medalists in the 100 metre sprint then in, say, the last ten Olympics Games?

    You can check for yourself but I count nine of the ten in the men's event. (I don't know what it is for women — maybe they're all lily white but I suspect not.)

    But none of this means anything, right?

    TOP TIP for you: Don't take up gambling — you'll lose the shirt.

  33. Apologies, Gene, but I don't really see any possible logic that could argue John's comment away so I am surprised by your strong words that are not backed by anything except for your desire to have the last word by saying that you don't want a discussion. Sorry, as far as I can say, it doesn't work like that and shouldn't work like that. If you didn't want any conversation on that, you should have written nothing.

    John has just pointed out a trivial and unassailable fact that blacks are better in sprint. It is a statement that can be measured in various ways, e.g. (but not only) by the number of Olympic medals for 100m sprint:

    Just check the races of the winners from the recent Olympics. Whether affiliated with the U.S. or African countries, they're black. They're mostly Jamaican in recent years. Jamaica would be accumulating slaves, possibly mostly physically fit slaves, up to the 19th century, which may give them an advantage. But they came from various corners of Africa.

    Some tribes surely have a better runners (or average runners) than others (and some nations in Africa have better long-distance runners) but how can this fact reduce the truth value of John's statement? At most, it strengthens it because there are differences not just between races but between tribes or subcultures, using your word.

    That's true in various abilities in which whites seem to be better. Some "subcultures or tribes" are better in many things than others, and so on. The activities - like getting science done or acquiring Olympic medals - ultimately depends on the best ones, and they come mostly from various places.

    All these observations are obvious facts. I think that anyone failing to see these elementary facts must have been living with his head under the sand. You were effectively asked how the negative emotions arise as soon as someone just says something that is pretty much nothing more than these facts, and your only "answer" was an expletive.

  34. Dear Shannon, the competitors from other parts of the world are playing the same global game.

    One may invent some special contrived rules of a "French game" that selectively help some French producers, and so on, but this is obviously an unfair game from the viewpoint of the foreign competitors, right?

    So the countries above these competitors are morally justified - and likely - to twist their game in their own direction, and so on, and when one evaluates the effect of all these distortions, both nations lose.

    There isn't really any "clever" vs "stupid" protectionism. There is some protectionism that is "too harmful" or "too obviously harmful" because the country-importer simply can't produce certain things - and other cases are "less harmful". The space in between is a continuum. And then there are cases of protectionism in which the protected entity is controlling the government so it's more guaranteed to be heard. I don't call it "clever", I call it a corrupt government.

  35. Of course it was fault of democracy, [just as in communism the crush was due to totally wrong underlying idea rather than power abuse]. Problem with democracy is, that it only allows you to find the right solution in case of problems with trivially obvious correct solution. In any other case, more complicated, most of the people will be wrong. Crowd will find the right solution only after trying all the wrong once first. Advantage of democracy is, that people cannot complain, as they are responsible for the screw-up themselves. In case of WW2 almost everybody was agreeing that they do not want the war (WW1 seemed enough) and that appeasement can prevent it.

  36. Regarding differences between races, recent analysis of Neanderthal DNA has shown that only Sub-Saharan humans do not have Neanderthal genes but are genetically more diverse than those leaving Africa.

    Given that the pool of available genes was enhanced by interbreeding with Neanderthals and they had to adapt to very different ecological environments around the world, unlike those staying in Africa, we could expect a selection for genes favouring a higher adaptability to changing environments?

  37. I'm still patiently waiting for any and all "white privilege" to kick in. It's been well over 40 years for me and I haven't seen anything in terms of white privilege. Someone send up a flare or something, call me or text me and let me know when I can get some.

  38. Lubos, human beings are not only consumers.
    If you are against protectionism then you must be in favour of globalisation with one world governance eventually. As far as I am concerned: no f**g way.

  39. Amazing how Ebola deaths can get disappeared from the MSM news cycle but riots over a black criminal virtually committing suicide-by-cop can be pimped up into a national cause celeb. Charlie Manson's goal was to create race wars too, but Obama and Sharpton put him to shame.

  40. Right, Shannon, they are not just consumers. But what's good for the consumer is also good for the other producers of the extra things that the consumer couldn't afford otherwise.

    And that's why the barriers' net harm exceeds their overall benefits.

    The global free market is sort of the opposite of a government, or a global government. There are no barriers so there is no room for someone to decide what the barriers should look like, how tall they should be, whom they should punish and harm and reward and how much.

  41. if you dont want to engage...dont post.

  42. “When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

    ’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

    ’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”
    we have been here before, you know.

  43. Oh yes the World Corporation ;-).

  44. This is not racism, this is ethno-differentialism. :-)

  45. Fully agreed Lubos. There is no intelligent protectionnism.
    But as with every policy one has to qualify the metrics.
    If your political target is the growth of your economy, the purchasing power, the performance and the competitivity (to have an example, let's take Schäuble), then it is a matter of a 10 lines proof that protectionism can only be somewhere between utterly stupid and largely harmful.
    However if your political target is to allow non competitive local businesses to survive, to promise that there will be no lay offs in sectors that failed to innovate and modernise, to neglect inflation and purchasing power then this target leads directly to protectionnism. Of course it is still stupid but at least it is consistent because you will get what you asked for.
    Argentina is the best example - the crazy Christina was elected on 3 themes : :
    - football for everybody (target were rich cable TV companies transmitting football)
    - steal YPF from the Spanish Repsol who invested billions in it (she actually "gave" this biggest Argentina company to her son)
    - stop importing what could be/was produced locally ("intelligent" protectionism).
    Much sheep both in human and animal form liked that and she got elected.
    Well Argentinians are now getting what they deserve and what they voted for.
    Hyperinflation so that everybody lost his savings. Inability to reimburse the national debt libelled in $ what lead to change control. Destruction of purchasing power - nobody can afford to buy Argentinian products because they are too expensive.
    From that follows among others black market, smuggling and dolarisation of the private economy (if you want to buy an appartment in Buenos Aires, you pay in $). OK this is strongly punished but everybody is ignoring the laws. There is much more but I pity the few poor Argentinians who dared to denounce the protectionism.
    So much for "intelligent" protectionnism - it is not surprising that Caucescu was called by the loving people the Carpathian Genius :)