Galileo Under House Arrest

 [Nobel Prize Winner James] Watson attended that initial meeting of the CRISPR group, as he did most meetings at Cold Spring Harbor, and he sat in the front row of the auditorium, underneath a grand oil portrait of himself, to hear Doudna’s talk. It was a reprise of her first visit there as a graduate student in the summer of 1987, when Watson also sat up front as she presented, with youthful nervousness, a paper on how some RNAs could replicate themselves. After Doudna’s CRISPR talk, he came up to say a few words of praise, just as he had done almost thirty years earlier. It was important, he said, to push the science of making gene edits in humans, including enhancing intelligence. For some in attendance, it felt historic. Stanford biology professor David Kingsley took a picture of Watson and Doudna talking.1

But when I show up at the 2019 meeting, Watson is not in his usual seat in the front row. After fifty years, he has been banished from meetings, and the oil portrait of him removed. He is now sentenced to internal exile, living with his wife, Elizabeth, in elegant but tortured isolation at the northern end of the campus in a pale Palladian-style mansion called Ballybung.

Isaacson, Walter. The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race (pp. 385-386). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition. 

Watson's banishment is a consequence of an opinion he dared to voice, namely that the persistent IQ score gap seen between certain racial groups is genetic.  Of course many have argued that it is a result of social factors, and that is the received wisdom.

Perhaps he should have mumbled it in Italian.


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