It’s James Freakin’ Watson!

James Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA and Nobel laureate (as in “Watson and Crick”), was in Chicago tonight!

Watson1

I learned a couple pieces of trivia:

  • Mario R. Capecchi, who was announced earlier today as one of the 2007 Nobel Prize winners in Medicine, was one of Watson’s grad students.
  • Harvard University did not raise Watson’s salary the year he won the Nobel Prize.

Watson was in Chicago promoting his new book Avoid Boring People: Lessons from a Life in Science. He mentioned that he was played by Jeff Goldblum in the movie The Race for the Double Helix. But if his new book ever gets made into a movie…

“I want to be played by Sacha Baron Cohen.”

He also said if the new book got into the hands of politically correct reviewers, he would be “sunk.” He made a ton of un-PC remarks all night. They were hilarious. I mean, how often do you hear someone rip on Erwin Chargaff? (He was unpleasant, we were told.)

Or how often are you told that, since the sperm of younger men is more potent than that of older men, we may want to consider storing our sperm at the age of 13?

There were words of wisdom, too. Aspiring researchers were told to pursue fields in which they could be pioneers (“Don’t get in a race with twenty horses”). Also, Watson said it’s good to talk to your competition; they might be the only people interested in what you are doing.

Watson had a lot to say in response to questions about faith. He said he has no need for religious explanations for anything; they divert you from the true answers:

“I think that’s crap. There’s no other word for it.”

He later added (tongue-in-cheek) that religion is great for people whose lives are hell (in other words, they have hope of an afterlife).

The best part of the night came when Watson was asked about who he sided with: Evangelical scientist Francis Collins or ultra-atheist scientist Richard Dawkins.

Watson said Dawkins was a friend of his. But when he was asked to write a blurb for the back of The God Delusion, he was worried. Watson said (jokingly, I think) that he didn’t want to get shot. So he wrote something so dull that Dawkins couldn’t use it.

What did he think about Francis Collins’ book, The Language of God?

“His book is trash.”

“He says he believes in miracles. That’s inconceivable!”

And when it came time for the book signing, I had Watson sign the two copies of I Sold My Soul on eBay that have already been signed by several atheist luminaries. (The books will eventually be auctioned with proceeds going to atheist groups.)

Watson2

I swear I’m kneeling in that picture.

And because that’s not enough, I handed the printed-out two-page copy of Watson’s original DNA structure article (PDF) to a friend. Just so I wouldn’t overwhelm him. Watson signed both pages :)

That’s getting framed.


[tags]atheist, atheism, DNA, science, Francis Crick[/tags]

  • http://politicsandhealth.blogspot.com/ Marc

    Wow, the two-page article that Watson signed for you is perhaps the most important science article written this half-century. I still can’t get over the fact that that particular letter did not report any original experiments, but just ‘simply’ synthesized the evidence that was already out there. I wonder how much is that worth now with his signature?

  • http://blog.lib.umn.edu/fole0091/epistaxis/ Epistaxis

    OMFG! I’m jealous to tears! I have a James Watson bobblehead (next to my Darwin poster).

    I want him to autograph my genome.

  • http://lifebeforedeath.blogsome.com Felicia Gilljam

    You are such a fanboy… and I’m soooo jealous! When is he coming to Sweden? :P

  • http://thestemcellgeek.blogspot.com Stem Cell Geek

    Nicely done!

    Have you read his new book?

  • Siamang

    Arrrgh….

    Is he coming to LA? (or has he already been and gone?)

  • Siamang

    Damn! Two weeks ago!

  • Karen

    Argggghhh! I would have loved to take my kids to see him. Darn.

  • http://paxnortona.notfrisco2.com Joel Sax

    Shame on you, Hemant. Just because you’re a humanist doesn’t mean you worship human beings. ;P

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    James Watson is a sexist creep, a scientific lounge lizard who benefited from vital information from Rosalind Franklin, without which he and Crick might have been footnotes in another discoverer of the structure of DNA’s story. Just off hand, I wonder why its acceptable for him to point out that the social sciences aren’t science when, uh, let’s say, someone else saying that here was grounds for some of the worst whining in the blogosphere a few weeks back.

    As for his opinion of Francis Collins’ book. It’s not a science book, to start with but a work on popular religion. As a book about religion it deals, in part, with the moral character individuals, a comparison between Collins and Watson would definitely favor the faith-head.

    That Watson, who one suspects would resent the existence of any being superior to himself doesn’t like religion, is old news.

    I’ve read he’s now reported to be attributing some of the sexist remarks that some said he issued to Crick, now that’s something I hadn’t seen before. Given that he was the one who published degrading and grossly sexist remarks about Rosalind Franklin after her death and that Crick disassociated himself from the that trashy junk, I don’t believe he’s remembering it correctly.

    Hope everyone’s being all rigorous and honest.

  • Siamang

    Hey everyone, olvlzl’s back!

    Everyone get out your Bingo cards.

    Just off hand, I wonder why its acceptable for him to point out that the social sciences aren’t science when, uh, let’s say, someone else saying that here was grounds for some of the worst whining in the blogosphere a few weeks back.

    Scoring points on an old grudge, CHECK!

    Given that he was the one who published degrading and grossly sexist remarks about Rosalind Franklin after her death and that Crick disassociated himself from the that trashy junk, I don’t believe he’s remembering it correctly.

    Pulling out the tabloid version of a sordid affair in the life of a prominent atheist. CHECK!

    Hope everyone’s being all rigorous and honest.

    Passive-aggressive complaints about atheists not being as rational and honest as they claim to be. CHECK!!

    I GOT BINGO!!!

  • monkeymind

    Siamang, you’re not being very rigorous. Since when is three in a row bingo?

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Rule #1 of neo-atheism, it is forbidden to tell the truth about the agods of the atheist panatheon. Most Catholics don’t hold the pope so far above criticism and objective review, that’s something that is more in keeping with the worst of fundamentalist religion.

    Siamang, you’re in a bit of a pickle and you don’t even know it. Crick is one of the gods of the panatheon too and Watson is gossiping about him. I seem to recall reading that Crick and his wife were friends with Franklin which would account for the dig. So, it’s your hero, Watson who is dredging up ancient history, or myth as the case would seem to be.

    A friend told me about this post as it is something I’ve written about before. Believe me, I’ve very little interest in the futility of arguing on the low level that is the hallmark of blog atheism. I’ve discovered all there is to know about that, which was my only purpose in ever checking out the fad.

  • Richard Wade

    Trollin’, trollin’, trollin’…

  • monkeymind

    Hold on to that card Siamang because you could be a winner yet!

  • Siamang

    Siamang, you’re not being very rigorous. Since when is three in a row bingo?

    There’s a free space in the center.

  • http://paxnortona.notfrisco2.com Joel Sax

    Siamang, BINGO has five letters…. ;)

    (Just tweaking your nose here.)

  • Brian Michaelson

    And maybe Doctor Watson thinks religion belongs with all those less intelligent folk in Africa.

    Hubert the Friar

  • Pingback: The Mismeasure of Watson at Zoomtard

  • evomon

    Hello

    Any interest in selling the autographed books or the copy of the two page article?

    I have a few books signed already by Mr. Watson and would like to add to my collection.


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