the report of a very eye-opening personal encounter with Dr James Watson, famed geneticist, Nobel-prize-winning co-discoverer of "the double helix", and, as a new ambition in his golden years, outrageously pigheaded eugenicist.
Dawn Eden reports:
"They say I'm a killer," Watson went on, his tired eyes taking on fire. "It's those right-to-lifers."
"They say I'm a killer," he repeated, "and everyone's afraid of offending them." He was still looking at the other scientist. The scientist, whom I know didn't share his views, maintained an attentive silence—partly, I believe, out of gentlemanly respect, and partly out of not wanting to put gasoline on a fire.
But I had nothing to lose. So I took a deep breath, adjusted my jaw so it was back in line with my upper lip, and said, in the gentlest voice I could muster, "I'd love to know more about why you feel that way, as I'm a right-to-lifer myself."
Watson looked me in the eye and told me he was qualified to advocate in favor of mothers choosing to abort "unhealthy" children because he wished he could have aborted his own son, who is mentally handicapped.
He went on, unprodded, to say that he was an "unbeliever," so he was sure he would have had no moral qualms about killing his own child.
But we're not done with Dr Mengele, er, Watson, yet. I also recommend you have a look at this article:
Abortion justified for 'better babies'
(The Age, Aaron Patrick, July 6 2003, New York)
James Watson would have aborted his son if a genetic test had been available at the time warning that his child would be born with severe epilepsy.
Declaring "I'm not a sadist", the man who co-discovered DNA said that parents, especially mothers, should have a right of genetic veto over the make-up of their child.
Watson's a villain, to be sure, but let's keep things in perspective. He is merely taking the reigning bioethical assumptions of our day one small step further. Most people blithely assume a fetus is not a person and is therefore subject to its -- its? a? -- mother's -- mother's? woman's? -- abortive veto. Watson is merely saying the same libertarian power of veto should be extended over inferior fetuses. The line between a non-person and bad would-be-person is dangerously thin. Watson just has the eugenic guts to cross it.
"Any time you can prevent a seriously sick child from being born, it is good for everyone,"
Including the child, I presume? I'm reminded of Ronald Reagan's mot juste, "I see that everyone who is for abortion has already been born."
Dr Watson told The Sunday Age. "Most mothers wouldn't want to have dwarfs."
For what it's worth, most dwarves wouldn't want to have such mothers. Let's be fair: I say we establish a new rite of passage, a sort of male sweet sixteen. At the age of sixteen, every male should be able to have a duel, at sixteen paces, with the parent of his choice. Most teenagers, you know, wouldn't want to have unpleasant parents.
Dr Watson's views are based on a fierce libertarianism and personal experience. One of his two sons is severely disabled from complications caused by epilepsy, and will soon undergo a type of surgery in Switzerland only done 11 times before. ...
"Who would be against having better children?" he said. "If it goes wrong and creates a social problem, then maybe you ought to do something about it."
Proof once again that only really famous smart people are allowed, by sheepish social convention, to say things this stupid. Does Watson even know how to spell the word "history"?
Dr Watson's refusal to oppose what he concedes could lead to eugenics takes him on to sensitive ethical ground.
Could lead to eugenics? How about "could lead to more systematic eugenics"? Dr. Watson, you're already a eugenicist, and the worst kind: of benign intent.
For instance, he believes abortions are acceptable where a foetus is found to be genetically inclined to homosexuality.
"If they want to, let them," he said. "My wife really wants a grandchild." ...
CORRECTION: "a perfect Watsonian grandchild."
Dr Watson is also an opponent of the Catholic Church, comparing its fight against stem cell research to the Vatican's 1633 prosecution of astronomer Galileo Galilei for postulating that the Earth rotates around the Sun. He says he has never seen a soul in a test tube.
Proof once again that only really famous smart people are allowed to say things this stupid twice in the same interview.
Of course, I can't fault Dr Watson too much for his metaphysical myopia. I'm sure he's never seen a soul in the mirror, either.
But on the subject of human cloning, his passionate belief in the freedom of science reaches its limit.
"I hope it doesn't happen because it could create havoc with the DNA fingerprint (of society)," Dr Watson says. "Most people wouldn't want to walk around the city knowing there are 50 other people who look like them." ...
Simple solution, Dr Watson: just abort the 49 Doppelgängers.
Hitler wasn't even close to the Aryan models of perfection he and his medical teams devised, but that didn't stop him from, ahem, working for a better future. I wonder what medical skeletons in the closet Watson has that might show him to be a sick, inferior human. I wonder how high his standards of perfection are. Does he even grasp the concept of a moral slippery slope? Maybe he'd get it if we drew him a pretty diagram using a downwardly spiraling helix. Maybe?
God have mercy on him; unsear his conscience, O Lord.