Monday, October 22, 2007

Race and prejudice

James Watson , the veteran Nobel scientist who helped to unravel the structure of DNA in 1953, cancelled his book tour in Britain and returned home to the United States yesterday after his research institute suspended him for his comments about the intelligence of Africans.

Intelligence based on race is mistaken notion. Apparently black people are among the poorest on earth today. White Europeans were among the poorest in the Middle Ages, not because they were less intelligent but because of the political system at that time. The Europeans have become prosperous thanks to political reforms. But not all of them. Until recently, Ireland was the poorest in the EU not because of the intelligence of its people but because of the political situation.

Each of us is endowed with a type of intelligence. There are people endowed with intelligence in economics, others in science etc. there is also the environment that decides one’s intelligence. A black person living in a poor African country with few school facilities is unlikely to do well as another black living in Europe where he has the means to have full and fruitful education. Black people in the USA could do just menial jobs requiring little skills because they were denied equal opportunities. The countless black stars and successful people in this country at present shows that people become intelligent not thanks to race but to the opportunities.

People can have prejudices towards each other as a part of their attitudes. This can be accepted as a social phenomenon. But for racial prejudices to come from an authority is unacceptable. Science isn't about attitudes. It's about facts. One should produce tangible facts before coming to a conclusion.

Labelling one race as less or more intelligent amounts to perpetuating racial prejudices. What matters is how to adapt in life. If black people, especially in Africa, are given the opportunity to make their life better, they will devise a mode of modern life, not necessarily a replica of the white people’s. James Watson and those who adopt his views should produce scientific evidence based on genes and the like and not simply on the current situation of the Africans which has to do with their political system and not their intelligence.


Looney said...

This is always an interesting topic, but extremely sensitive. I feel that culture is the biggest impact, rather than a political system or DNA. I grew up among Whites, but live among Asians. The way children are raised is so much different between the two cultures, but the Asian kids are much more successful. Not all groups of Asians, however, are equally successful here in the US. Of course, it is very hard to tell someone that they need to change their culture to give better opportunities for their children.

Abdelilah Boukili said...

It's quite true Looney that culture or at least personal conduct has a lot to do with success. A culture, for example, teaching self reliance and good conduct is more likely to produce children who can be successful later in their lives. The most backward cultures are those that are rigid so one is sacrificed for their sake.

It's also true that many immigrants to the USA who come from underdeveloped countries become successful and innovative, regardless of race or religion. They become so because they adapt to the American system which maybe far different from that in their native countries.

It can be less embarrassing to point at modes of lives as a reason for disparities between people. But to use race can be totally politically incorrect.