The American eugenics movement and bad science, James Watson
Interviewee: James Watson. James Watson discusses the failure of eugenics to identify genetic differences between people they considered "fit" and "unfit." Here he talks about eugenicists went beyond the data provided by pedigrees, in asserting that mental illnesses were caused by single genes. (DNAi Location: Chronicle > Threat of the unfit > Epilogue > Going beyond the data)
The striking thing when you look back at human genetics in the United States in the first thirty years of the 20th century, was how limited it was, there were lots of assertions about mentally defective children being products of bad genes but no genes were isolated, there were no Mendelian causations. So it was all an assumption that genes were behind, in so far as the only evidence you could get that genes were behind it was looking at the association of traits in identical twins, comparing how common they were in identical twins versus unrelated twins. And this way you could say there was a genetic component to mental disease, but if you look at actual pedigrees you couldn't say there was a single gene involved. And yet the eugenicists were saying that people who were related to, say people with schizophrenia shouldn't have children. So the eugenicists were going beyond the actual data from human genetics.
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