David Cox on Science & Spirituality
  David Cox     Biography    
Recorded: 02 Jun 2003

So, I’m not a very religious. I’m Jewish, which is different from being religious. But I’m very spiritual. And so my views about religion are that it’s not a very good thing. It’s caused tremendous human misery. And I think though is that what religion is, is it’s in place of the fact that human beings didn’t understand what evolution is all about. So without understanding evolution, without understanding biology we don’t appreciate the fact that we perceive the world and we think about things based on how our brain is put together. And our brain is put together over a really long time. And it’s about our DNA and its about evolution. And it’s also about our experiences, but it’s fundamentally a biological thing. So since human beings haven’t—since most of the world doesn’t believe in evolution and that since most people don’t have any view of the fact that much of our perceptions and our beliefs and the way our mind works is intricately related to our biology is that that’s what religion does. And so for me the spirituality that many people call religion comes out of the realization and the beauty that all human beings fundamentally have a brain that works the same way. And it allows us in an amazing way to communicate our thoughts to each other because we’re common substance. I think this is coming to be realized more and more where if you have lesions in your brain, certain parts of your brain that it makes it so you can’t recognize other people as human beings. That other lesions in your brains that makes it so you do very antisocial things. But you don’t actually know that you’re doing it. Other lesions in your brain where you basically burst out crying but you don’t have any feelings or you don’t know why you’re doing that. And then when you don’t stimulate that part of the brain anymore, you don’t cry anymore. So it’s that these things that we see uniquely human and uniquely spiritual and emotional are fundamentally tied to our biology. So I actually believe that with the DNA sequence and a better understanding of this is that it will fundamentally change how human beings interact with one another. And that it will make us realize is that all of the beauty of human beings caring for one another as well as the things that they do to each other to basically get ahead are what it means to be human. And that understanding our DNA in no way, you know, makes that a less fascinating or beautiful thing. But in fact what it does is that it makes it more understandable so we can take human beings for who they are and live together in more harmony.

I think the world will be a fundamentally changed place when more people realize that evolution is true and can accept the fact that there’s nothing less beautiful or spiritual about the fact that there’s a physical basis to what it is to be a human being.

David Cox received B.A. and M.S. degrees from Brown University and M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Washington. From 1980 to 1993, Dr. Cox held faculty positions in the Departments of Pediatrics, Biochemistry and Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. In 1993, he became Professor of Genetics and Pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine as well as the Co-director of the Stanford Genome Center.

Dr Cox was a co-founder of Perlegen, and has been Chief Scientific Officer of the Company since its formation in 2001. He has served on several international and national councils and commissions including the Council of the Human Genome Organization (HUGO) and the National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC). He presently serves as a member of the Health Sciences Policy Board of the Institute of Medicine. Dr Cox's honors include election to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

Cox was a member of one of the first groups to begin sequencing the human genome. His relationship with Watson developed from his interest in Cox’s innovative approach to sequencing, called radiation hybrid mapping.

He attended the 68th Cold Spring Harbor symposium to celebrate the completion of the rough draft of the human sequence.

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