Color, Controversy and DNA

A conversation between The Root Editor-in-Chief Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Nobel laureate and DNA pioneer James Watson about race and genetics, Jewish intelligence, blacks and basketball and Watson's African roots.

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Henry Louis Gates Jr. at Cold Spring Laboratories in 2008.

Below are excerpts from the Q&A with Nobel laureate and DNA pioneer James Watson.

James Watson: I've thought about these things a lot over the last couple of months, because those who know me well, you know, I'm mortified by those three sentences in the Sunday Times article. I'm not a monster, and yet, if you took them at their face value, I seem to be nasty.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. : But Dr. Watson, on behalf of the African Americans who admired you, studied your work, and read The Root.com, where in the world did those words come from?

JW: One sentence was just taken out of my book. It was [that] we shouldn't expect that people in different parts of the world have equal intelligence, because we don't know that. [Some] people say that they should be the same. I think the answer is we don't know. … With the other two sentences, I talked to [the Times reporter] for eight hours. When I read the [quotes], I had no memory whatsoever of ever saying them. Because if I'd said anything like that, it was so inappropriate!

HLG: Well, are you gloomy about the future of Africa?

JW: Not if we educate them. I think we've got to focus on education.