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Should Africans Accept Watson's Apology?

Sun, 4 Nov 2007 Source: GNA

A GNA Feature by Boakye-Dankwa Boadi

Accra, Nov. 4, GNA - Nobel Prize winning DNA pioneer, James Watson, who recently caused a furore, in an interview he granted Sunday Times, a British newspaper, in which he was quoted as saying Africans were less intelligent than Europeans, has apologised.

Watson said the way the words were presented did not reflect properly his position. "I can certainly understand why people, reading those words, have reacted in the ways they have. To all those, who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa as a Continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologize unreservedly.

That is not what I meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no scientific basis for such a belief."

Watson has been forced to eat the humble pie because he probably saw that he had put his Nobel Prize on the line. He has now come out to debunk his social prejudice to be his scientific self.

It is refreshing that the plethora of scientific evidence that has been made available following Watson's interview has proved beyond every doubt that racism is a delusion.

Watson was quoted in the original interview as saying 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". He was further quoted as saying that his hope was that everyone was equal but that "people who have to deal with black employees find this is not true".

Indeed personal experiences of individuals would indicate that some people are smart while others are not so smart regardless of the race. Haven't any of you come across someone belonging to your own race getting on your nerves because the one appeared to be a sluggard or stupid? Could you then say that there are no Africans that are smarter than that sluggard?

So far, so good, but let us analyse the concept of intelligence test. Websters New World Dictionary on power CD writes: Intelligence is the ability to learn or understand from experience; ability to acquire and retain knowledge; mental ability; measured success in using these abilities to perform certain tasks.

Alfred Binet, a French psychologist, introduced intelligence test in 1905. The intelligence quotient that is arrived at supposedly indicates a person's level of intelligence. It is the mental age (as shown by intelligence test) multiplied by 100 and divided by the chronological age. If scholarship agrees that because the variation in scores for different age groups taking graded test increases roughly in proportion to the increase in age and, therefore, mental ages cannot be used accurately to compare the basic ability of children of different chronological ages - apparently because of the length of their experiences - then it stands to reason that there would be no justification for intelligence tests that do not take into consideration the environment of the children.

Let us go through a hypothetical intelligence test derived from the Ghanaian environment and let us see how European children would fare.

a) You have a bar of chocolate for breakfast. List any 50 possible steps taken by men/women to produce the cocoa in the chocolate.

b) There is a plane crash but you successfully parachute and land safely in a tropical rain forest. You have a machete and lighter. Answer the following questions:

1. You hear the chirping of many different types of insects. What time of the day is it?

2. You also hear the croaking of frogs. What time of the year is it?

3. You see a rat which you want to kill for food but it enters its hole. What simple method would you use to get it since you are too tired and weak to dig it out?

4. Since there are many echoes in the forest what noise would you make to call for assistance?

5. If you see a path in the forest what signs would you look out for to determine whether it is a footpath or animal's trail?

6. As you walk along a footpath what sign would indicate to you that you are approaching a human settlement?

7. If you meet a person as you walk along the footpath what should you do? Why should you do that?

8. On reaching the settlement where are you likely to be taken to?

9. What would you be offered first?

10. If there is a community meeting you will discover that one person repeats the words of another. What is the relationship between the two? Jean Piaget, the father of cognitive development, maintained that intelligence is always related to an organism's adaptation to its environment.

In 1987 this writer, who was stationed in Bolgatanga came down to Accra to visit the family and decided to take his four-year-old daughter to Kumasi to go and meet her paternal grandmother for the first time. At the State Transport Yard this writer met a classmate he had not seen since they finished secondary school in 1969 and entered into a hearty conversation.

When father and daughter eventually got on board the bus the daughter asked: "Daddy, does time have wings?"

Father: "No, why ask?"

Daughter: "You and your friend kept on saying; how time flies; how time flies. If time has no wings how can it fly?" The father had to use the next 30 minutes of the journey to explain the use of words and their various meanings.

When she eventually got to the grandmother she soon discovered that while this writer and her mother called her, Nana the grandmother was calling her Maame. So she asked why her grandmother was calling her Maame instead of Nana. This was explained to her that the person she was named after was the mother of her grandmother that was why she was calling her Maame, meaning mother, instead of Nana, which means grandmother.

The four-year-old girl had already moved to the third level of learning - application - according to the Benjamin Bloom Taxonomy. Since charity is one of the major characteristics of Africans one would assume that Africans have forgiven Watson, but he should "go and sin no more".

Columnist: GNA