Junkfood Science: Being smart does not make one right

October 26, 2007

Being smart does not make one right

“Question authority” was once the young people’s code, but it’s falling by the wayside as people of all ages more readily accept as fact whatever someone with a prestigious title, notable academic credentials or distinguished awards might say. But no amount of education or recognitions makes someone’s views credible.

The editors of the Daily Stanford have written a hard-hitting piece today, with an incredible illustration that even the best minds can exhibit ignorance and prejudice.

Questioning Nobel authority

The Nobel Prize is regarded by many in academia as the most coveted award for one’s achievements. After a long life of dedication to a field, specialists of physiology or medicine, literature, physics, economics, peace and chemistry hope to be recognized by the Nobel Prize Committee and catapulted into the annals of history. Worldwide recognition, mainstream admiration and substantial prize money naturally follow. So does courting from leading research institutions across the world, with Stanford as no exception. With 17 Nobel laureates on faculty, the Stanford community greatly appreciates having so many distinguished persons contributing to University education. We should, however, show serious reservations if such laureates misapply their legitimacy to advance reprehensible opinions.

Consider the following remarks:

On obesity: “Whenever you interview fat people, you feel bad, because you know you’re not going to hire them.”

On genetically engineering beauty: “People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would be great.”

On race: “[I am] inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa...all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours — whereas all the testing says not really.”

All of these comments were made by James Watson, co-winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of the structure of DNA. The last remark, on race, was made about two weeks ago...

This lengthy article concludes with the hope that a “moral obligation can be fostered against prejudice no matter how prestigious the perpetrator.”

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