James Watson, the Nobel prize-winning scientist who caused an uproar earlier this week with his comments to a Sunday newspaper has been suspended by his research laboratory.
The Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory in New York issued a statement saying that it had taken the action "pending further deliberation by the board". Watson has hit back, saying his words were presented in such a way as to mislead readers about his position.
In the interview, Watson is quoted as saying that he has little hope for the African continent because testing shows that "our intelligence" is not the same as "theirs". Watson says he meant nothing of the sort, and that the presentation of his words was such that his original sentiment was lost.
The BBC quotes him as saying: "I can certainly understand why people, reading those words, have reacted in the ways they have. To all those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologise unreservedly. That is not what I meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no scientific basis for such a belief."
Meanwhile, in an article for The Independent newspaper, he writes: "We do not yet adequately understand the way in which the different environments in the world have selected over time the genes which determine our capacity to do different things. The overwhelming desire of society today is to assume that equal powers of reason are a universal heritage of humanity.
"It may well be. But simply wanting this to be the case is not enough. This is not science. To question this is not to give in to racism. This is not a discussion about superiority or inferiority, it is about seeking to understand differences, about why some of us are great musicians and others great engineers."
Nevertheless, the Science Museum felt compelled to cancel a lecture he was due to give, and the Bristol Festival of Ideas also pulled the plug on his scheduled appearance. ®