Peter Little on Science & Spirituality
  Peter Little     Biography    
Recorded: 30 May 2003

I’m completely not religious. I have no interest in religion. I think churches are very beautiful. I love church music. I’ve absolutely clearly had religious experiences sitting in churches. I just interpret them very differently from the way that religious people interpret them. I don’t understand religious people. That’s just something that is just a blank spot in my mind. But I’m perfectly happy with them being religious. I find biologist who are religious very difficult. I don’t understand how you can be a good scientist and still be religious. I mean there are special arguments that enable them to get away from the obvious contradictions. So I’m not religious, but it would never occur to me to argue with anybody that they were wrong. I gave up doing that when I was very young. It’s a meaningless argument. It starts from two different premises and it never will meet.

Biologically, I really believe there’s an imperative to religion. And I suspect in all human societies there are religious imperatives, and I suspect that’s real. We have a real need for religion. I think I’m unusual in not needing religion. And modern humans are rather unusual. So I really believe that there is a religious imperative in human beings. And it’s probably for cohesion, the cohesion of small groups of human beings in the face of very difficult circumstances, which is actually the history of the human race. So I actually believe that the arguments as to whether there is or is not a God misses the point. There is a need for people to believe in a religion. That’s what I think. I don’t understand it, but I really do believe that it’s there.

Peter Little is a bioinformatics researcher, professor of medical biochemistry and the head of the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. He received his Ph.D. working with recombinant DNA under Ed Southern and Peter Walker at Edinburgh University. In 1976, Little cloned a human gene – the second time this was ever accomplished.

Little’s laboratory studies the genetic basis of gene expression, and genetic variation as it pertains to the regulatory regions of the genes. He has hypothesized that there are two types of genetic variation that alter gene expression. His lab has also created advanced techniques for testing genetically influenced transcript variations.

He comes to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory regularly for genome meetings and symposia.

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