James Watson, Ann Coulter and the tolerance of bigotry
Image: Voices for Change Committee
The nineteenth-century American author and moralist T.S. Arthur once wrote, “We are judged by the company we keep.” While we can doubt the veracity of this statement in every particular (after all, this famous advocate against the evils of alcohol was a friend of Edgar Allen Poe who probably died from drink) it’s certainly true in the case of people who condemn in others what they tolerate amongst themselves.
Denyse O’Leary, Canadian journalist and Intelligent Design creationist who writes at William Dembski’s site Uncommon Descent, has taken great umbrage with James Watson for yesterday’s racist comments, and for good reason. Just days after insulting the intelligence of Rosalind Franklin (the geneticist he refuses to credit as one of the discoverers of DNA) Watson claimed that he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of 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 . . . people who have to deal with black employees find this not true."
This is patently offensive nonsense. How such a formerly brilliant mind could believe such absolute hogwash is a depressing thought. However, it takes tremendous hypocrisy on the part of Uncommon Descent to paint these absurd remarks with a broad brush and vehemently assert that “legitimized racism is an inevitable consequence” of evolutionary theory. Considering that they have such high standards, one would naturally assume they’d call out such vile language in those they agree with as well as those they don’t.
Predictably this isn’t the case. Ann Coulter (who has said about Muslims that “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity” - also see below) has been praised repeatedly on the same website which now claims such profound moral indignation.
William Dembski himself has stated that Coulter “will propel our issues in the public consciousness like nothing to date” and was “happy to report that I was in constant correspondence with Ann” while writing her book Godless, in which she defends the racist social science propagated in The Bell Curve.
O’Leary likewise accuses Richard Dawkins of being anti-Semitic for making passing reference to the successful “Jewish lobby” in Washington. But when Coulter announces that Jews are nothing but “imperfected Christians” and that the entire religion of Judaism should be thrown away there is strangely no mention, no moral outrage, no condemnation that “legitimized bigotry is an inevitable consequence” of conservative Christianity (which I don’t think it has to be, though believers often attempt to dissuade me of this view).
James Watson deserves the public thrashing he’s currently receiving, and I’m glad that Uncommon Descent will agree that such racist comments are despicable. However, I think this hypocrisy represents a fundamental difference between Intelligent Design advocates such as O’Leary and Dembski and those they intend to malign. Immediately after Watson’s diatribe was uttered, prominent evolutionary scientists condemned his opinions and were rightly offended by his remarks. I’m still waiting for similar actions to be taken by those pillars of tolerance over at Uncommon Descent.
UPDATE: For more on this see Mark's terrific post today at Denialism Blog.
Additional quotes by Ann Coulter:
"Jihad monkey talks tough; jihad monkey takes the consequences. Sorry, I realize that's offensive. How about 'camel jockey'?"
"I'm all for public flogging. One type of criminal that a public humiliation might work particularly well with are the juvenile delinquents, a lot of whom consider it a badge of honor to be sent to juvenile detention. And it might not be such a cool thing in the 'hood to be flogged publicly."
“Thank God the white man did win or we would not have the sort of equality and freedom, or life, that we have now.”