The science museum has cancelled a talk by Nobel prize winner James Watson after the scientist, who won the gong for his part in discovering the structure of DNA, said that black people are less intelligent than white people.
The museum said that it does not shy away from discussing difficult topics, but that "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".
Watson made his remarks in an interview with the Sunday Times newspaper. He said that he felt a great deal of concern for the future 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."
He then went on to say that "people who have to deal with black employees" find that we are not all equal.
He told the Sunday Times that he does not advocate discrimination on the basis of colour: “there are many people of colour who are very talented, but don’t promote them when they haven’t succeeded at the lower level”. In his book he says “there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so”.
In the past Watson has said a woman should have the right to terminate a pregnancy if she discovered her unborn child carried a "gay gene", but said "I was just arguing for the freedom of women to try and have the children they want, not what is right or wrong”.
Watson is travelling to the UK for a week-long tour to promote his latest book. According to reports the book also contains controversial themes, including scepticism of the idea of "equal powers of reason" across all races.
He is due to speak at various universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, as well as attending an event at the Royal Society. He will also speak at Bristol's annual Festival of Ideas hosted by the university's vice-chancellor, Eric Watson. The university said it expected some "robust questioning" of Watson and his ideas.
Along with Francis Crick, James Watson used data collected by Rosalind Franklin to decipher the double helix structure of the DNA molecule. The pair shared the Nobel prize with another scientist, Maurice Wilkins. Crick later said that he was sure Franklin would also have shared the prize, but for her early death from cancer in 1958. ®