5 Great Scientists Who Believed Wildly Unscientific Things

#2. Francis Crick


Dr. Francis Crick and his colleague James Watson were responsible for discovering the DNA molecule in 1953, which, among other things, allowed The Jerry Springer Show to become much more entertaining. It also proved Darwin's theory of evolution and scored them a Nobel Prize. It was a pretty big deal. How Francis Crick believed that DNA got to Earth was also a pretty big deal, mostly because it was completely insane.

Smoldering eyes and pure sexual magnetism. And we're only half joking.

The Crazy:

Crick believed in a theory called "panspermia." Now, you giggle because the name of the theory contains the word "sperm," but here's the thing -- "panspermia" means exactly what it sounds like. Crick believed that life was seeded on Earth by intergalactic "sperm" on the tail of some comet or meteor. While his theory is not quite as scientifically respected as his double-helix model of DNA, most scientists agree it is likely the closest we'll ever come to a scientific equivalent of the Lil Wayne song "Fuck the World."

Silver Spoon Sokpop
Look, we're biodiverse, and in this universe, man, amino acids.

There have been a number of criticisms of panspermia since Crick proposed it, the strongest being that the whole thing isn't even goddamned possible. This is because the DNA molecule (which, if you'll recall, Crick himself discovered) basically decays too quickly for it to have enough time to travel from one star system to another. Also, there's the fact that other planets in our solar system are devoid of life, which there's no explanation for, unless Earth acts as some sort of interplanetary sperm magnet. No evidence of this yet.

If your sperm are this luminescent, please seek immediate medical help.

Like a hack Hollywood screenwriter, Crick decided that there was no problem that couldn't be solved by typing "Turns out it was ALIENS!" Crick countered critics of normal panspermia by changing it to "directed panspermia," which says almost the same thing, except that instead of comets flying around aimlessly, you have aliens seeding life on Earth on purpose. The problem with this is that there's no scientific evidence whatsoever that aliens even exist, much less that we're the result of their intergalactic money shots all over Mother Earth's face.

Just to give you an idea of how completely strange this theory is, the only worldview that seems to coincide with it is Scientology.

Fantastic Adventures
Seems legit.

#1. James Watson


Wait a minute -- the name James Watson sounds familiar! Well, it should; he's Francis Crick's partner, and he also makes the list, which brings us to our next question: What the fuck, geneticists? We here at Cracked believe that the next Nobel Prize in physiology should be awarded to the person who discovers the gene that allows geneticists to believe absolutely crazy shit. To be fair to Watson, he didn't believe that life was brought to Earth by aliens or anything like that. The only thing that he's guilty of is pseudoscientific racism at a level that would embarrass the most ambitious KKK Grand Dragon.

"DN-what now?"

The Crazy:

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Watson, who had shown no outward signs of being a complete lunatic up to that point, explained that everyone would be a lot better off if we just admitted that Africans aren't as smart as whites. After making sure that he wasn't secretly in a competition to come up with the least scientific thing you could say in the fewest words, The Sunday Times reprinted Watson's statement, and a shitstorm was born.

He was later found to have the genetic markers for dickishness and holding stock in Sunday newspapers.

There are a number of reasons that Watson's theory is a load of garbage, and Watson should have known all of them. As the guy who discovered the double-helix model of DNA, you'd think that Watson would have been paying attention to the Human Genome Project, which had already been unable to find a correlation between race and intelligence. Being both a Harvard professor and the head of one of the top genetics research facilities in the U.S., you might even say that Watson was paid to know such things.

What new discovery had Watson made that would undo years of science that suggested different "races" were all identical on the inside? In the interview, Watson said there was a natural desire that all human beings should be equal, but "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true."

"I have no idea why my grandchildren never visit."

Yes, Watson's theory was based on his experience with black employees. Presumably he'd never entertained the possibility that these less intelligent black employees might have been responding negatively to the fact that they were working for a racist who communicated to them with slow motion hand gestures and dog training techniques.

"Oh, you're white, too! We must be the same person!"

And it turns out that these sorts of beliefs weren't altogether uncharacteristic of Watson. Since winning his Nobel Prize in molecular biology, he'd been using it as a license to shoot off his mouth on scientific areas with which he had absolutely no experience. In addition to thinking that his impressions of black employees meant they were genetically less intelligent, he believed that women scientists were more "difficult" than men, that people with low intelligence should have their genes altered and that mothers should be able to abort babies with imperfect genes (saying "most mothers wouldn't want to have dwarfs"). So basically he was a racist dick who, by the way, stole his biggest discovery from a woman.

For more ill-advised attempts to make a point, check out 6 People Who Died In Order To Prove A (Stupid) Point. Or discover 9 Inventions that Prove Leonardo da Vinci Was a Supervillain.

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