Watson has, of course, been in the news lately, getting dumped from his post as chancellor of the Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory. Now, a reader has pointed out to me that Watson's elder partner, Crick (1916-2004), was also guilty of holding the same views on race and IQ.
Some of the Francis Crick Papers are now online, and they are certainly illuminating. For example, during the controversy in 1969-1971 over IQ and race launched by Arthur Jensen's 1969 Harvard Education Review article and William Shockley's call for financial incentives and penalties to encourage higher IQ reproduction, Crick, a strong supporter of Jensen, threatened to resign as a Foreign Associate of the American National Academy of Sciences if steps were taken to "suppress reputable scientific research for political reasons."
In contrast, in 2007 almost nobody stood up for James Watson.
Really, isn't it about time that we dig up the bones of Crick and fire him? How can we live with ourselves knowing that there are thought criminals who escaped their just rewards by the trick of dying before we could properly humiliate them? Judging from these letters, it sounds like several other greats, such as Ernst Mayr and C.P. Snow, deserve posthumous show trials and exemplary punishment too. I'm sure there are others...
By the way, Francis Crick was, according to Nobel Laureate Peter Medawar, named after Darwin's cousin Sir Francis Galton, inventor of regression analysis and coiner of the term "eugenics." It is striking how many of the great biologists of the 20th Century, such as Crick, Ronald A. Fisher, and William D. Hamilton were part of the Galtonian tradition. Galton is constantly denounced these days as a pseudo-scientist, yet many of the great subsequent discoveries in genetics and statistics were made by Galton's enthusiasts.
Here are some letters from and to Francis Crick. The first exchange, in 1971, concerns an earlier letter signed by biochemist John T. Edsall, evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr, and five other members of the American National Academy of Sciences responding negatively to Shockley's call for research into the origins of average IQ differences among the races.
Crick replied to Edsall:
22 February 1971
Dr. John T, Edsall
Fogarty International Center
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, Maryland 2 0014
I have been very distressed to see the letter to the President of the National Academy by you and six other Academy members regarding a Proposal by Dr. [William] Shockley [Nobel laureate in physics]. Like you I have not published anything on the population problem, but f have become fairly familiar with the literature of the subject. I have also talked to Dr, Jensen when he visited the Salk Institute recently.
Unlike you and your colleagues I have formed the opinion that there is much substance to [Berkeley psychologist Arthur] Jensen’s arguments. In brief I think it likely that more than half the difference between the average I.Q. of American whites and Negroes is due to genetic reasons, and will not be eliminated by any foreseeable change in the environment. Moreover I think the social consequences of this are likely to be rather serious unless steps are taken to recognize the situation.
While any present conclusions are tentative, it seems likely that the matter could be largely resolved if further research were carried out. I should thus like to know two things. Would you and your colleagues please state in detail why they think the arguments put forward by Jensen are either incorrect or misleading. Secondly, would they please indicate what research they think should be done to establish to what extent "intelligence" is inherited. This is surely the important point, and is equally valid for a country without a racially mixed population.
The most distressing feature of your letter is that it neither gives nor refers to any scientific arguments, but makes unsupported statements of opinion, This, I need hardly remind you, is politics, not science. The voice of established authority, unsupported by evidence or argument, should have no place in science, and I am surprised to find that you, of all people, should put your name to a letter of this character written to the Academy on a matter of scientific research. I am cure you will realize that if the Academy were to take active steps to suppress reputable scientific research for political reasons it would not be possible for me to remain a Foreign Associate.
I hope you will forgive me writing so frankly, but we have known each other now for a long time, and I have a great respect for your opinion on matters such as this. I am not, for the moment, sending a copy of this letter to anyone else.
Finally I should comment on the last paragraph in your letter. I cannot answer for Shockley, but I know that both Jensen and I would agree with you on that point. But this has no bearing on how intelligent, on the average, people’s children are likely to be.
I leave here tomorrow, and expect to be back in Cambridge on 1st March.
F. H. C. Crick
Dr. John T. Edsall
Fogarty International Center
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, Md. 20014
I was very pleased to receive your letter of March 5, especially as it strikes a rather different note from your letter to the Academy. I agree with you that [Nobel physics laureate William] Shockley arouses a maximum of antagonism, but this I think is due to his manner rather than his matter. In fact, [Berkeley psychologist Arthur] Jensen pointed out to me that while he and Shockley say much the same thing, Shockley always manages to upset people!
I agree with you about Jensen’s paper, I’m afraid none of us is immune from bias on this subject, but his seems quite small. I do not agree with you about [Harvard geneticist Richard] Lewontin. He makes a useful point - that the difference between two populations may still be due to environment, even though within both populations the variance may be largely genetic but it is one that most people in the field are aware of. Otherwise his tone is to be deplored, although it shows how strongly people feel about this subject.
As to your point about the I. Q. results on American Indians being mainly due to their cultural tradition, this may be so, but personally I doubt it. How do you explain the relatively poor I. Q. performance of the children of middle-class American negroes?
I. Q. tests do seem to me to be useful, in spite of their obvious limitations, if only because people’s social aspirations are highly correlated with I. Q. That is, if the population as a whole is asked to rank occupations (most people would rank doctors higher than dustmen), then this ranking is almost perfectly correlated with the average I. Q. of the people in the occupational groups (i.e. doctors have, on average, a higher 1, Q. than dustmen). Naturally for comparing differences between two cultural groups an I. Q. test should be, as far as possible, culture-free.
I have not seen the report of the Academy Committee headed by [sociologist] Kingsley Davis, but I look forward to reading it in due course.
What I miss most is constructive approaches to this problem, Can the “environmentalists” set up in an experiment an environment which will make the I. Q. difference disappear? If they can’t do that, then the hope of doing anything on a large scale in a social context is remote. Can the “geneticists” produce an experimental test which will show definitively that more than half the difference is genetic? Incidentally, a reasonable- design for such an experiment exists, but nobody (except possibly Shockley) will fund it, mainly due, I suspect, to the attitude of people like yourself and your colleagues, and of [Oxford geneticist Walter] Bodmer and [Stanford population geneticist] Cavalli-Storza.
I still feel that if you and your colleagues do not agree with Jensen’s tentative conclusions, you would do a useful job by refuting his argument point by point. Also, I would like to see your plans for research in this field, so one can see how long a period is likely to be involved.
May I make a general suggestion, which I put forward in a lecture a year or so ago, which might be drawn to the Academy’s attention? A most powerful research tool is the study of identical twins separated at birth. Jensen has recently looked into all the cases for which I. Q. data are available and finds there are only about 125 of them. Why should not a Twins Institute be formed? This would encourage people who have twins to let one of them be adopted by another family. Both the rate of production . of twins and the rate of adoption are sufficiently high that worthwhile numbers would soon accumulate. It is essential to keep track of such cases, and examine them periodically, and this would be the job of the Institute. Let me emphasize that there would be no compulsion for people who have twins to let one (or both) be adopted, though they might be encouraged by a modest subsidy given in return for the right to examine the children periodically. Such a scheme seems to me so humane and useful (contrast it with military conscription) that once people had become used to the idea, I think it would be socially acceptable. What do you feel?
If you wish do please show our letters to your colleagues. I would be interested in their reactions.
Edsall replied in a letter you can read here, suggesting that population growth was the crucial problem of the era.
Crick answered in a short letter that hasn't been fed through an optical character reader, so I will excerpt from it. After agreeing with Edsall on the importance of population limitation, Crick wrote:
The "Twin Institute" proposed by Crick was eventually more or less brought into existence by University of Minnesota psychologist Thomas J. Bouchard, whose landmark "Minnesota Twins" study of twins raised apart began in 1979 and was published in 1990.
I don't think the small amount of money which is needed to start eugenics research will in any way compete with this. The main difficulty is that people have to start thinking out eugenics in a different way. The Nazis gave it a bad name and I think it is time something was done to make it respectable again.
As far as I can see, we are in agreement on all this except perhaps for a slight difference of emphasis.
There proved to be enough twins raised apart due to personal reasons so that Crick's suggestion of paying parents to give their twins up for adoption separately was not part of Bouchard's study. Indeed, today, Crick's idea sounds cruel, but that realization, paradoxically enough, dates largely from Bouchard's study, which included many joyous scenes of identical twins being reunited for the first time since early childhood. At the time Crick wrote, before the "Minnesota Twins" project he advocated, people were less aware of the emotional power of genetic similarity.
During Crick's exchanges with Edsall, he received an April 14, 1971 reply from famed Harvard biologist Ernst Mayr, who was another signer of the anti-IQ research letter that Crick deplored. Mayr said, in part:
If I may summarize my own viewpoint, it is that positive eugenics is of great importance for the future of mankind and that all roadblocks must be removed that stand in the way of intensifying research in this area. Shockley with his racist views is unfortunately the worst roadblock at this time, at least in this country; hence, his sharp rejection by some of us who are very much in favor of positive eugenics.
To which, Crick replied:
21st April, 1971
Dr. Ernst Mayr
The Agassiz Museum
Cambridge, Mass. 02138
I agree enthusiastically with practically everything you say, but I still feel that the present position which has arisen because of Shockley is unfortunate. What I would like to see is a good programme of research supported by people like yourself. You will have to reconcile yourself to the fact that whatever you do will have political implications and repercussion. Incidentally what do you think of my suggestion for a Twins Institute?
As to racism, what about negative racism? That is, the acceptance by Universities (like Harvard) of students with considerably lower standards merely because they are black. This policy is certainly going to lead to trouble. Either many of them will drop out, or they will have to be given degrees where white people would be failed. There was a recent article in Science about this.
I myself do not feel very strongly either way about the Black-White distinction. If I have a prejudice it is against the poor, and in favour of the rich, but such an attitude is almost equally unacceptable to most people.
F. H. C. Crick
Earlier, Crick had received a note from Lord C.P. Snow, the famous scientist and novelist, author of The Two Culture, asking him,
"Did you make some trenchant remarks recently on the radio about genetic factors in various kinds of individuals and groups destinies?"
17 April 1969
85 Gaton Terrace
I gave a talk to University College on 'The Social Impact of Biology’ and the BBC subsequently broadcast a shortened version of it. As I covered a very broad range of topics I decided not to publish it, and no manuscript exists as I spoke from notes. As far as I remember I said that the biological evidence was that all men were not created equal, and it would not only be difficult to try to do this, but biologically undesirable. As an a[s]ide I said that the evidence for the equality of different races did not really exist. In fact, what little evidence there was suggested racial differences.
Had I enlarged on the subject I would have dwelt on the probable positive differences, such as, for example, the Jews and the Japs, rather than speak only about Negroes. From what I hear you have been saying something along these lines,, I would certainly love to see what you've written when you’re satisfied with it.
In a lengthy 1977 letter to Nobel Laureate Peter Medawar, Crick outlined his views on IQ and eugenics. He had this to say about one frequently cited figured on the anti-Jensen side
Lewontin, in particular, is known to be strongly politically biased and himself admits to being scientifically unscrupulous on these issues. That is, he takes them as political ones and therefore feels justified in the use of biased arguments.
My view on positive eugenics as a policy is that the Galtonians never had an answer to the challenge posed them in 1922 by G.K. Chesterton, in Eugenics and Other Evils. Chesterton pointed out that the "positive eugenics" of society arranging marriages among the most fit was self-defeating. If arranged marriages actually succeeded in breeding better men and women, the first thing these healthier, smarter, more robust individuals would do would be to tell society to butt out of arranging their marriages, and they'd go back to choosing their own mates!
Still, Chesterton's objection is far less valid, and Crick's concerns even more valid, when the question is the impact of immigration. Countries like Canada have a consciously positive selectionist immigration policy of trying to identify applicants who will most benefit the existing population while keeping out people who would be detrimental. In contrast, anybody who advocates that we Americans take a look at the Canadian perspective is likely to get called a Nazi.