Thoughtcrime against the scientific consensus
A speaking tour by the DNA pioneer James Watson was thrown into chaos last night when one of Britain's most high-profile scientific institutions announced it was cancelling a planned sell-out appearance.
The Science Museum in London said "...the Science Museum does not shy away from debating controversial topics.
"However, the Science Museum feels that Nobel Prize winner James Watson's recent comments have gone beyond the point of acceptable debate and we are as a result cancelling his talk at the museum."
Dr Watson's comments in The Sunday Times have overshadowed the visit and caused an outcry from across the worlds of science, politics and the anti-racism lobby. He said he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa ... because all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really ". The new Human Rights and Equality Commission, which has the power to investigate alleged infringements of race laws, has said it is studying Dr Watson's comments "in full".
I know no more of Dr Watson's claims than I read above, but there is test data to support his theory and the whole study of race and intelligence is a valid scientific field, even if it attracts the nutjobs to the fringes of it. Dr Watson's remarks don't seem to be calling for violence or racist acts, just "unacceptable".
This intolerance of thoughtcrime against the "consensus", and remember we are talking the musings of a notable scientist not a lonely blogger, reminds us of the fragility of freedom of expression.
As Junkfood Science tells us:
A thought piece appeared in the Financial Times examining what is science and why it is so critical for us to distinguish it from scientific consensus. Author John Kay writes:
...Consensus is a political concept, not a scientific one. Consensus finds a way through conflicting opinions and interests. Consensus is achieved when the outcome of discussion leaves everyone feeling they have been given enough of what they want. The processes of proper science could hardly be more different. The accomplished politician is a negotiator, a conciliator, finding agreement where none seemed to exist. The accomplished scientist is an original, an extremist, disrupting established patterns of thought. Good science involves perpetual, open debate, in which every objection is aired and dissents are sharpened and clarified, not smoothed over.
And how many of our leaders would like to see the same intolerance shown to "climate change deniers?" or "healthy food doubters"?