Recorded: 09 Sep 2003
I mean I think it’s a fantastic moment in history. The first moment in four billion years that a creature on this planet has read its own recipe. I mean that is, you know, a really epochal moment. And the really exciting thing about it is that we don’t still know what quite how much we are going to find in there and what. Already some of the stories are quite extraordinary that we’re able to find in there in terms of how we understand how we put the body together and so on. A lot of people are very frightened that it somehow reduces us to a series of chemical codes. I think quite the reverse. It’s filling out an incredibly rich picture of understanding of how nature and nurture interact; of how we are the products of our history and what you can do now by looking at the history of how gene sequences have changed and how you can date genealogical moments and so on is quite extraordinarily. So I do think that it’s a very, very big story. And the whole of biology up to the genome is going to be a mere footnote to what we discover from the genome, because as I like to put it, science is about discovering ignorance, not knowledge. You know where all you keep doing is you find out things you don’t know and tackling them for the first time. And we’ve got a huge chunk of ignorance in the genome to tackle over the next century or two.
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.