Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Watson under fire (again)

James Watson is under fire again for racist comments. No, not new comments but the same ones from last October that lead to his retirement from Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory. Watson is on the board of directors of Seed Media Group as scientific adviser. Seed Media Group is the parent company of, where several bloggers are calling for his head.

What confuses me is the timing. Why the outrage now? Where were the demands that he be dismissed from the Seed board 4 months ago, when the comments were first made? Lost in the shock of what he had said? Maybe there are goings-on behind the scenes that I'm not aware of, but to an outside observer it seems strange. Worse, most of the above bloggers make the point that October's outburst wasn't an isolated incident, but that Watson has a history of racist, sexist and otherwise demeaning or insensitive remarks. Watson was added to the Seed board in 2005, was launched in 2006. Why would these bloggers sign on to work for, as one of them puts it, a "racist corporate overlord"?

Odd timing aside, the real question is: Should Watson get a free pass because of his contributions to biology? Or should he continue to be punished for statements he has made (and apologized for)? What do you think?


Mr. Gunn said...

Meh. It's pack mentality. One person says something, and everyone else has to be the first to try to claim the higher ground, the ship for which has unfortunately sailed months to years ago.