Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Watson's quote of the week

For some reason a quote from Watson about genetic engineering of humans is making the rounds on the interwebs (reddit, digg). Which is funny because the quote in question comes from a conference held at UCLA in 1998 about germline engineering:

"No one may have the guts to say this, but if we could make better human beings by knowing how to add genes, why shouldn’t we?"

The irony of course is that the quote is taken out of context in a speech where Watson says he'll probably be misquoted...

"We've got to be careful not to admit at the outset that we're three-quarters evil and a quarter good. I just don't see the evil nature of what we're trying to do.
Genetics in many people's eyes, has a bad connotation of the State or others determining people's lives. Which is why, again, the State should stay out of it. My feelings is, the State shouldn't tell a person either to have it or to not have it. If the procedures work, people will use them, and if they don't work or if it's dangerous, it will stop.
The real enemy is a preexisting genetic inequality which makes some people unable to function well in the world. Terrible diseases - that's the enemy. Whereas some people are convinced the enemy is the people who study the genes, that we are the evil people. I don't think we're more evil thatn the people who run the music department. You know? I don't know if we're better or worse. And I suspect we're deep down trying to respond to a long term need, and the music people are making us happy by singing hymns, which cheer us up. We should be proud of what we're doing and not worry about whether we're destroying the genetic patrimony of the world, which is awfully cruelo to many people. And I don't think that's what we're trying to fight. French, I think you know we basically agree, but it's the image. I'm sure I will be misquoted by someone who says I'm gung-ho to go ahead and do it [human germline engeneering]. I would do itif it made someone's life better. We get a lot of pleasure from helping other people. That's what we're trying to do."

The transcript unfortunately is not available on the web (I transcribed this short passage) but you can find the book here.


Anonymous Coward said...

Where can I get a music student to sing to me while I do minipreps?

Bayman said...

reddit, digg I thought were really cool when I first heard about. But this is a great example of why they are one of the greatest tools ever created for the propagation of misquotes. At least it's equal-opportunity misquoting (as far as we know) rather than power-sponsored, I guess...

Oh well. Who the hell has time to read books?