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Monday, May 11, 2009

Genome mappers Crick and Watson: Was Crick the brains of the team?

Re Nobel Prize-winning genome mapper James Watson (who, with Francis Crick, developed the double helix model) A friend who reads the Scientific American blog (February 26, 2009), wrote recently to tell me that,
At a panel discussion at the New York Academy of Sciences, Watson let it all hang out, according to a post at Scientific American. While he said some good things, he veered toward the all-too-familiar barbs. According to Watson, young scientists should not be encouraged to be nice. "Christian values don't make any sense," he said, adding that young people should be selfish in their pursuit of science in order to beat out the competition. He also chimed in with his views on science teachers today: "Part of the problem is too many of our teachers are dumb"he said.
What he said, specifically (or so we are told) was

He noted that a lack of money in the sciences meant that people had to be nice to each other, because they need to grovel for the limited research dollars. And, according to Watson, there's nothing worse than forcing young, ambitious scientists to be nice. "Christian values don't make any sense," he said, explaining that young people should be selfish and aim for success.

That's one reason he likes Russians, he said, like biologist Andrey Pisarev, and would hire them in a heartbeat – presumably because they are more worried about surviving than about being nice.

Pisarev must feel suitably honoured, I suppose.

I am sympathetic to the view of other friends who say that Crick, not Watson, was the brains of that operation. Crick had some astonishing views, to be sure (such as, "you are nothing but a pack of neurons") . But compare that to Watson opining that black employees are inferior to white employees.

The obvious question is, why bother with science achievements, if that's how you think?

Any white yokel can mumble that under his breath, after being let go for noonday drunkenness on the work site. Presumably, a black yokel, fired for similar reasons, would mumble the opposite - and to what purpose?


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