Your Editorial 'Watson's folly' (Nature 449, 948; doi:10.1038/449948a 2007) seemed to contradict itself. Appropriately, you censured Watson for his past and recent racist pronouncements, but with the same pen you chided organizations for cancelling his speaking engagements, scolding them because “science is about nothing if not openness and critical debate”. But the issue at hand really has nothing to do with science. In the most forgiving light, it is social polemics, and in the worst it is simple racism.

Watson's actions may be viewed as folly by racists, but to moral individuals his words are an indecency. Not every social conjecture is a valid scientific hypothesis; and humanity should not waste good thinking on hateful, immoral ideas. Watson's admitted statements were not folly: they were reminders of the extensive obstacles that many peoples still face in their quest for equal opportunity in democratic societies.

The organizations that cancelled Watson's engagements are socially responsible. Those engagements were never planned as forums for debate of Watson's racist attitudes. Decisive action by those organizations prevented any perception that his assault on human dignity was permissible.