Sam's Blog

Twenty-four hours is like three weeks!

James Watson is a Startling Douchebag

Posted by samgr on October 20, 2007

And the world has finally woken up to that fact. The Double Helix pissed me off more than almost any other book I’ve read. (Still champion: Bobos in Paradise. Die in a fire, David Brooks.) The whole story of Watson’s life is like if Tucker Max won a Nobel Prize. He’s a terrible person with one lucky break, and he somehow coasted off of it for the rest of his life. And this particular situation is one of those weird things where outrageous misogyny is somehow acceptable, but outrageous misogyny combined with racism pushes it over the edge.

Apparently I’m in a bad mood today.


3 Responses to “James Watson is a Startling Douchebag”

  1. abarclay12 said

    Ha ha – “The whole story of watson’s life is like if Tucker Max won a Nobel Prize.” That is a great line. It almost makes me want to read TDH.

  2. hughvic said

    Greetings, Earthling. James Watson here. I have eaten your leader. She tasted good, for dark meat.

    The Year of Our Lord 1223

    I quite agree with your assessment of Dr. Watson, and prefer Conan Doyle’s version. Please explain your distaste for “Double Helix” though — if you can separate the book from its strange author. I too cannot put my finger on Watson’s ever having had a special genius for scientific speculation or understanding; only for mechanics. He always seemed to me more akin to an engineer. In particular, a technician of retrieval. Nothing wrong with that. Biologists were big. Then physicists. Now engineers are so big that they’re commonly mistaken for scientists. (Incidentally, Heidegger of all people predicted this in a characteristically weird little essay called “Origin of the Work of Art”) Point is that I’m not belittling mechanics. Galileo was a masterful mechanic too, but that’s not what makes him indispensable. It’s his imagination, and his extraordinary capacity to flout scientific dogma so as to lend structure and coherence where others see disarray, concoctions, or nothing at all. My guess is that Watson will not, in retrospect, be credited with any of these signal characteristics, only for the repercussions of his one co-discovery. I’m neither a professional scientist nor an historian of science — just an opinionated 12th-century Scholastic trying to make sense of what you people have been up to eight centuries after my death — but even a corpse can agree with you about this Dr. Watson’s shortcomings. And I haven’t yet even gotten to his sickening efforts to revive social biology.

    I have two bits of advice for you. One, count it all as the noxious alchemical result of mixing puerile bigotry with an overrated scientist’s God Complex in a godless age. My spiritual and intellectual heir Gil Chesterton once made the crack that in the absence of God it does not naturally follow that people will believe nothing, but rather that they will believe anything at all. Watson dons his trousers one helix at a time, as do we. In recent years he’s been hopping around with his trousers around his ankles, and such is his dementia that the poor devil doesn’t know he’s confabulating, undressed. Take it from this old friar, there’s quite a lot of this sort of derangement flitting about in your present days. The ignis fatuus goes to their heads, and the personal demons dance. Even the laity is susceptible, as witness Mr. Gore.

    My other bit of advice is that you rinse your mind with a lavage of reason. I would prescribe this specific: Luca Cavalli-Sforza et al, “The History and Geography of Human Genes”. The irony of this work is that it manages to use Watson’s actual science to preclude any possibility of taking his pseudoscience seriously. How is it you moderns put it? Ah, yes: what goes around, comes around.

    Just ask Galileo.

    Go with God,

    Hugh of St. Victor

  3. evie said

    ah, sam. i miss you.

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