DNA pioneer stripped of titles for claiming black people are less intelligent

The 90-year-old geneticist lost his job at the New York laboratory in 2007

James Watson, the Nobel Prize-winning DNA scientist who lost his job in 2007 for expressing racist views, was stripped of several honorary titles on Friday by the NY lab he once headed.

"Dr Watson's statements are reprehensible, unsupported by science, and in no way represent the views of CSHL, its trustees, faculty, staff, or students", the laboratory's statement said. "The Laboratory condemns the misuse of science to justify prejudice", the laboratory said in a statement Friday.

James Watson, who discovered the double-helix structure of DNA alongside Francis Crick in the 1950s based on the work of British chemist Rosalind Franklin, said in a PBS film that genes cause a difference in intelligence between white and black people in IQ tests.

However, the laboratory's decision to revoke Watson's honours and titles is the result of American Masters: Decoding Watson, a PBS documentary that aired in the United States earlier this month.

In the 2007 article Watson went on to avow that, while he wanted everyone to be equal in terms of intelligence, "people who have to deal with black employees find this is not true". He also said he took no joy in "the difference between blacks and whites" and that "it's bad, just like it's bad for schizophrenics".

The lab ejected Watson from his role as chancellor and from administrative duties in 2007 following previous racist remarks - even though he retracted and apologized for the statements.

In 1997, Britain's Sunday Telegraph quoted him as saying that women should be allowed to abort a child for any reason, such as if a gene for homosexuality were found in the foetus. The laboratory revoked three honorary titles, including chancellor emeritus.

James Watson co-discovered the DNA molecule structure.

In the documentary he admitted that his views on race and intelligence had not changed - "not at all".

The 90-year-old's comments were labelled "reprehensible" by the Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory (CSHL) on New York's Long Island, where Watson had been the director from 1968 to 1993.

An apology and retraction was issued by Watson that year following worldwide public outcry, although reports noted the scientists' statement rang false.

As British geneticist Adam Rutherford argued in 2014, when Watson complained in an interview that the scientific community had shunned him, it revealed a "pernicious character entirely unrelated to his scientific greatness, but that is longstanding and not new".

Today, there is a consensus among scientists that race is a purely social construct, with no evidence to suggest distinct genetic differences between individuals from different populations.

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