Sunday, December 14, 2008

DNA pioneer's own genes raise questions about the meaning of race

Commentary from By Arthur Caplan, Ph.D. contributor
updated 8:36 a.m. ET, Fri., Dec. 14, 2007
"An Iceland-based genomics company, deCODE genetics, conducted an analysis of Watson's DNA, which Watson had allowed to be placed on the Internet, and found that 16 percent of his genes are likely to have come from a black ancestor.....
Indeed, the racial outing of Watson was quite a surprise — most likely to the 79-year-old Nobel-prize winner. This past October he was forced to cancel a tour promoting his new book in England after opining in a British newspaper that he felt “inherently gloomy about the prospects for 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.” Jim’s fretting left him without a job at home — he retired from his job as chancellor at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York — and no longer especially welcome on the speaking circuit anywhere serious. Finding out one has black genes seems especially inconvenient for somebody proclaiming blacks to be genetically inferior."