Letter from Francis Crick to John T. Edsall, Fogarty International Center
Crick's letter referred to a letter sent by Edsall and six other scientists to the president of the U.S. National Academy
of Sciences, Philip Handler, on August 21, 1970, in which the signers set forth their "opinion that Dr. [William] Shockley's
proposals [that the Academy sponsor research into hereditary factors in intelligence and educational achievement of different
races] are based upon such simplistic notions of race, intelligence, and 'human quality' as to be unworthy of serious
consideration by a body of scientists."
In the last paragraph of their letter, singled out by Crick, the signers stated that "[e]ach individual is genetically
unique; there is not a single important trait for which there is not a wide overlap between different human populations. It
is basically vicious to evaluate individuals on the basis of the group to which they belong."
Crick was elected a foreign associate of the Academy in 1969.
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1971-02-22 (February 22, 1971)
Edsall, John T.
Fogarty International Center
Original Repository: Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine. Francis Harry Compton Crick Papers
I have been very distressed to see the letter to the President of the National Academy by you and six other Academy members
regarding a Proposal by Dr. Shockley. Like you I have not published anything on the population problem, but I have become
fairly familiar with the literature of the subject. I have also talked to Dr. Jensen when he visited the Salk Institute recently.
Unlike you and your colleagues I have formed the opinion that there is much substance to Jensen's arguments. In brief
I think it likely that more than half the difference between the average I.Q. of American whites and Negroes is due to genetic
reasons, and will not be eliminated by any foreseeable change in the environment. Moreover I think the social consequences
of this are likely to be rather serious unless steps are taken to recognize the situation.
While any present conclusions are tentative, it seems likely that the matter could be largely resolved if further research
were carried out. I should thus like to know two things. Would you and your colleagues please state in detail why they think
the arguments put forward by Jensen are either incorrect or misleading. Secondly, would they please indicate what research
they think should be done to establish to what extent "intelligence" is inherited. This is surely the important point,
and is equally valid for a country without a racially mixed population.
The most distressing feature of your letter is that it neither gives nor refers to any scientific arguments, but makes unsupported
statements of opinion. This, I need hardly remind you, is politics, not science. The voice of established authority, unsupported
by evidence or argument, should have no place in science, and I am surprised to find that you, of all people, should put your
name to a letter of this character written to the Academy on a matter of scientific research. I am cure you will realize
that if the Academy were to take active steps to suppress reputable scientific research for political reasons it would not
be possible for me to remain a Foreign Associate.
I hope you will forgive me writing so frankly, but we have known each other now for a long time, and I have a great respect
for your opinion on matters such as this. I am not, for the moment, sending a copy of this letter to anyone else.
Finally I should comment on the last paragraph in your letter. I cannot answer for Shockley, but I know that both Jensen
and I would agree with you on that point. But this has no bearing on how intelligent, on the average, people's children
are likely to be.
I leave here tomorrow, and expect to be back in Cambridge on 1st March.