Controversial geneticist William Shockley will tape a debate with Alvin F. Poussaint '40, associate dean of the Medical School, tonight in New York.
David Susskind will moderate the discussion, which will be aired in December on WNEW, a local New York City station. Poussaint said yesterday the station arranged the debate after a debate at Harvard between Shockley and Roy Innis, national CORE director, was canceled.
The Harvard debate, scheduled for October 26, was called off by its sponsors, the Harvard Law School Forum.
"The Law School Forum, by cancelling the debate, brought more interest and attention to Shockley and gave him publicity and now the networks have picked up on it," Poussaint said.
Shockley has attempted to prove that blacks are genetically inferior to whites. He says his findings show that there is a high probability that the statistically lower average I.Q. score is due to innate differences in intelligence.
Shockley said that Susskind was eager to have Poussaint, as a representative of Harvard, on the show.
"They wanted somebody who would moderate Shockley's views," Poussaint said. "I intend to present a black point of view. I'll look at it politically and scientifically."
Shockley said that he was "unable to judge" whether the debate with Poussaint would be as challenging as the scheduled debate with Innis. Poussaint accepted the invitation to meet with Shockley because "they were going to have a program on Shockley anyway. It's important to put his views in perspective so the damage he does to black people is toned down.
"I don't think he should go unchallenged. He's going to be in the media whether he likes it or not, and I don't think that the thing to do is to run away," Poussaint said.
Asked if he thought he would be criticized by his colleagues at the Medical School, Poussaint said, "Possibly, yes, I expect there will be some criticism for talking to him."
Shockley, professor of Engineering Sciences at Stanford University, is not a geneticist, Poussaint, a professor of Psychiatry at the Medical School, said. "I've read a lot about the subject and I know what's going on in the field," he said.
The debate now seems to involve the constitutionality of expressing Shockley's views, as well as those views themselves. "The Harvard experience confirms my past experience that the first amendment is a very powerful corrective mechanism. A suppression of presentation of ideas results in greater exposure," Shockley said.
Shockley said he was disappointed in not appearing at Harvard. Shockley equated the atmosphere which forced the cancellation of the debate to "mental illness." He said both could be treated better if the symptoms were exposed.
Shockley said he is still anxious to come to Harvard, and that he would welcome any invitation, "especially if expenses are included."