Recorded: 09 Sep 2003
I think you can never get rid of competition from science. I think it will always be there. It’s a hugely motivating factor. You go into the laboratories and you ask what’s really making them, you know, staying up late at night. It’s the chance to beat somebody else to a result. You know, and that’s always been the case and always will be the case.
Is it destructive? Does it get to the point where it does harm? Well, of course, it can. But on the whole I think it’s a positive force. Competition if a good force, just as it is in some ways it is economically. And of course what competition does is that it leads to cooperation. In other words in the competition to beat someone else you cooperate with your colleagues and indeed with other teams elsewhere. So it’s really, science is—there’s a rather good word for it which is "cooperitition". It’s cooperation in order to achieve results in competition. And I think it will always be like that. A lot of human endeavor is like that and scientists somehow likes to think sometimes that they’re above competition. That they’re not in nature… tooth and claw like the rest of the world. But I think they’re kidding themselves.
Matt Ridley is a journalist and a leading science writer. He earned his Ph.D. in zoology from Oxford University in 1983. He worked as a correspondent and editor for The Economist, a columnist for Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph and as editor of The Best American Science Writing 2002.
His books include Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature; Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation; Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters ; Nature via Nurture: Genes, Experience, and What Makes Us Human; and Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code. His books have been short-listed for many literary awards.
He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. Ridley is the honorary life president of the International Centre for Life, Newcastle-upon-Tyne’s park devoted to life science that he founded in 1996. He is chairman of Northern Rock plc, and other financial services firms.
In 1996, Ridley first visited Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and made James D. Watson’s acquaintance. In 2006 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and is a visiting professor at the lab.