Race-row laureate has African genes

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LONDON: James Watson, the DNA pioneer who claimed Africans were less intelligent than whites, has been found to have more genes of black origin than most Europeans.

An analysis of Dr Watson’s genome shows 16 of his genes are likely to have come from a black ancestor of African descent. By contrast, most people of European descent would have no more than one such gene.

The study was made possible when Dr Watson allowed his genome – the map of all his genes – to be published on the internet in the interests of science and research.

“This level is what you would expect in someone who had a great-grandparent who was African,” said Kari Stefansson of deCODE Genetics, whose company carried out the analysis.

“It was very surprising to get this result for Jim.”

Dr Watson won the Nobel Prize, with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, after working out the structure of DNA in 1953. However, he provoked an outcry earlier this year when he suggested black people were genetically less intelligent than whites.

His critics savoured the latest wry twist of fate at the weekend. John Sulston, the Nobel laureate who helped lead the consortium that decoded the human genome, said the discovery was ironic in view of Dr Watson’s opinions on race.

“I never did agree with Watson’s remarks,” he said.

“We don’t understand enough about intelligence to generalise about race.”

The backlash against Dr Watson forced him to step down as chancellor of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York state, after 39 years at the helm.

He said he was “inherently gloomy about the prospects for 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”.

The analysis of his genome by deCODE Genetics, an Icelandic company, shows a further nine of Dr Watson’s genes are likely to have come from an ancestor of Asian descent. Dr Watson was not available for comment.

The Sunday Times

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