James Watson, Co-Discoverer of DNA and Out of the Closet Racist?

Oh dear. Nobel laureate and grand wizard candidate James Watson has decided to take the Coulter Route in trying to sell his latest book.

One of the world’s most eminent scientists was embroiled in an extraordinary row last night after he claimed that black people were less intelligent than white people and the idea that “equal powers of reason” were shared across racial groups was a delusion.

James Watson, a Nobel Prize winner for his part in the unravelling of DNA who now runs one of America’s leading scientific research institutions, drew widespread condemnation for comments he made ahead of his arrival in Britain today for a speaking tour at venues including the Science Museum in London.

The 79-year-old geneticist reopened the explosive debate about race and science in a newspaper interview in which he said Western policies towards African countries were wrongly based on an assumption that black people were as clever as their white counterparts when “testing” suggested the contrary. He claimed genes responsible for creating differences in human intelligence could be found within a decade.

This isn’t his first bizarre statement:

In 1997, he told a British newspaper that a woman should have the right to abort her unborn child if tests could determine it would be homosexual. He later insisted he was talking about a “hypothetical” choice which could never be applied. He has also suggested a link between skin colour and sex drive, positing the theory that black people have higher libidos, and argued in favour of genetic screening and engineering on the basis that “stupidity” could one day be cured. He has claimed that beauty could be genetically manufactured, saying: “People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would great.”

Richard Sharpe Shaver

It’s time for the obscure sci/fi author of the day:

Richard Sharpe Shaver (b. October 8, 1907 Berwick, Pennsylvania, d. 1975 Summit, Arkansas) was an American writer and artist.

He achieved notoriety in the years following World War II as the author of controversial stories which were printed in science fiction magazines, (primarily Amazing Stories), wherein Shaver claimed that he had personal experience with a sinister, ancient civilization that lived in caverns under the earth. The controversy stemmed from the fact that Shaver and his editor/publisher Ray Palmer claimed Shaver’s writings, while presented in the guise of fiction, were fundamentally true. Shaver’s stories were promoted by Palmer as “The Shaver Mystery”.

Very little is reliably known about Shaver’s early life. He claimed to have worked at an automobile factory, where, in 1932, odd things began to occur. As Bruce Lanier Wright notes, Shaver “began to notice that one of the welding guns on his job site, ‘by some freak of its coil’s field atunements,’ was allowing him to read the thoughts of the men working around him. More frighteningly, he then picked up the telepathic record of a torture session conducted by malign entities in caverns deep within the earth.” (According to Barkun, Shaver offered inconsistent accounts of how he first learned of the hidden cavern world, but that the assembly line story was the “most common version.”[1] Shaver said he then quit his job, and became a hobo for a period.

Barkun writes that “Shaver was hospitalized briefly for psychiatric problems in 1934, but there does not appear to have been a clear diagnosis.”[2] Barkun notes that afterwards, Shaver’s whereabouts and actions cannot be reliably traced until the early 1940s.

In 1943, Shaver wrote a letter to Amazing. He claimed to have uncovered an ancient language he called “Mantong,” a sort of Proto-World language which was the source of all Earthly language. In Mantong, each sound had a hidden meaning, and by applying this formula to any word in any language, one could decode a secret meaning to any word, name or phrase. Palmer applied the Mantong formula to several words, and said he realized Shaver was on to something.


What are your favorite movie quotes?

Here are three off the top of my head (and I’m doing it from memory so they may not be 100% accurate)

My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.

What’s a nubian?

Ok cynics, you know what to do.

Paradox of Voting

From Wikipedia:

The paradox of voting, also referred to as Downs paradox is a reference to the fact that for a rational, self-interested voter, the costs of voting will normally exceed the expected benefits. Because the chance of exercising a decisive vote (i.e. the chance of a tied election) is tiny compared to any realistic estimate of the private individual benefits of the different possible outcomes, the expected benefits of voting are less than the costs. The fact that people do vote is a major problem for public choice theory, first observed by Anthony Downs.


Thanks to Ben for the related Wiki entry on Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem:

In voting systems, Arrow’s impossibility theorem, or Arrow’s paradox, demonstrates that no voting system based on ranked preferences can possibly meet a certain set of reasonable criteria when there are three or more options to choose from. These criteria are called unrestricted domain, non-imposition, non-dictatorship, monotonicity, and independence of irrelevant alternatives.

The theorem is named after economist Kenneth Arrow, who demonstrated the theorem in his Ph.D. thesis and popularized it in his 1951 book Social Choice and Individual Values. The original paper was entitled “A Difficulty in the Concept of Social Welfare”. [1] Arrow was a co-recipient of the 1972 Nobel Prize in Economics.