THE SEX PROTEIN

Fascinating piece in the Sunday Times of London yesterday. It’s a report of a lecture given by British science legend, James Watson, the man who co-discovered DNA and received the Nobel Prize in 1962. Among his recent work is looking into the role of a protein called pom-C in promoting happiness. According to the Times, ‘Pom-C is involved in the production of various hormones, including melanin, whose concentrations determine skin color; beta endorphins, which control mood swings; and leptin, involved in fat metabolism. [Watson] suggested that concentrations of these hormones might be increased by sunlight and described how men injected with melanin in an experiment had experienced surges in their libido. This, he said, implied that people exposed to the sun would experience surges in melanin levels, boosting sex drive.’ His memorable line summarizing this insight: ‘That’s why you have Latin lovers. You’ve never heard of an English lover. Only an English patient.’ Of course, Watson made the mistake of giving the lecture at Berkeley, where science is required to comport with politics. Such politics must deny the existence of any biological differences between groups of people for fear of giving aid to oppressive white males (even though such research tends to show how white males are not the most genetically blessed creatures on the planet). So Watson was greeted by a walk-out and demands that he never appear at Berkeley again. It should, of course, simply be an empirical question whether, for example, Southern Europeans have higher sex drives and levels of happiness than those trapped in sun-less places like Edinburgh and Stockholm. But in today’s American academic climate, such questions – let alone answers – are increasingly verboten. Look what happens to anyone researching ethnic or gender biological differences. Watson is an established enough scientist not to care, which is why his work is to be encouraged. He says he’ll publish a serious paper on the subject soon. I can’t wait.