The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) revokes three honorary titles it bestowed to James Watson, a scientist awarded with the Nobel Prize for Physiology/Medicine in 1962.
The lab based in New York made the announcement via its website on Friday, Dec. 11, as a response to the racist comments that Dr. Watson expressed in a television documentary earlier this month. The lab called the comments "reprehensible" and "unsupported by science."
James Watson Criticized For Racist Comments
In the PBS documentary American Masters: Decoding Watson, the scientist said that the average difference in I.Q. of blacks and whites are caused by genetics. He expressed the same controversial views in an interview in 2007 where he commented that he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because all current social policies rely on the idea that "their intelligence is the same as ours — where all the testing says not really."
The documentary, which profiles individuals that made major contributions to the United States, aired on Jan. 2.
The CSHL clarified that it does not support the statements made by Dr. Watson and his views do not represent its trustees, faculty, staff, and students. While the lab appreciates his contributions, it has revoked his honorary titles of Chancellor Emeritus, Oliver R. Grace Professor Emeritus, and Honorary Trustee.
The Nobel laureate has been associated with the lab for decades. He became CSHL's director in 1968 and then its president in 1994. A school inside the lab is named after him.
However, the relationship between Dr. Watson and CSHL soured in 2007 when the DNA scientist first aired his racist views in an interview with a British newspaper. At the time, the lab forced Dr. Watson to retire from his post and write an apology/retraction.
James Watson's Son Reacts To The Controversy
"My dad's statements might make him out to be a bigot and discriminatory," said Watson's son, Rufus, in a telephone interview with the Associated Press. "They just represent his rather narrow interpretation of genetic destiny."
Dr. Watson is 90 years old and currently recovering from a car crash that happened last October.
Michael Wigler, a molecular biologist, defended the scientist. While he does not share Dr. Watson's view on race and intellect, he told The New York Times that the comments were made by a man who "has lost cognitive inhibition, and had drifted that was for decades as he aged, speaks from his present mind."