Gerald Rubin on Science & Spirituality
  Gerald Rubin     Biography    
Recorded: 30 May 2003

Alright. I think scientists are all spiritual. And I think you can’t be a scientist—as far as science as a spiritual activity because if you believe in these equations, you know, E=mc2, I mean that’s a belief, that’s a theory, you’re believing in nature, the Big Bang, where do all those things come from. I mean you believe in laws of nature or who invented laws of nature? I mean you could believe in God or whatever I call it, but the laws of nature, they came from somewhere, right? So in a deep sense everyone is spiritual. Now it’s very different from saying you believe the Bible as written is the word of God. I mean I’m not a believer in that sense, but if you check any scientist who is rationale, and say, well, fine, maybe you don’t believe in a God that is watching and knows whether you’ve been naughty or nice and whatever. In that sense, but here must be some organizing principle in the universe. And we think of it as equations and fundamental laws of nature, but I don’t know whether believing in the fundamental laws of nature and believing in God, there’s a very fine detail for me. Right. You’re talking to me and you’re asking me now about my personal beliefs. And so I do not, and I was raised as Jewish. I had a bar mitzvah. I was brought up to have a faith. But I don’t believe in organized religion in that way. I believe that there are ways people should behave. There are ethics, there are standards of behavior. But I don’t think those come from a higher being, like a God. And I think if you look in the role of religion in current politics and how people are killing one another in the names of their, you know, religion. It’s just not that I wouldn’t say religion a positive force. So it really comes down to a distinction between, am I an active participant in a functioning religion; do I go to church or a synagogue every week? Do I believe in the literal truth of the bible? No. Do I consider myself a spiritual person? At some level like I mention. That, you know, there is something—everything had to come from somewhere. Something—there had to be something at the beginning.

Gerald Rubin is a geneticist, molecular and cell biologist. As Director of the Berkeley Drosophila Genome Project, he led the sequencing of the entire fruit fly genome. Currently, as Vice President and Director of the Janelia Farm Research Campus at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Ashburn, Virginia, his research focus is on developing the biological and computer tools that are capable of analyzing and displaying the vast amount of information available from the genomic DNA sequencing of the fruit fly. He uses these advanced techniques to decipher gene regulation and expression at a genome-wide level in Drosophila and determine the function of certain fruit fly genes.

Gerald Rubin is also a professor of Genetics and Development at the University of California, Berkeley. He came to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as an URP (Undergraduate Research Program) in the early 70’s working under Lionel Crawford and Ray Gesteland before moving to Cambridge to earn his Ph.D. in molecular biology. He did postdoctoral work at Stanford University School of Medicine and became an assistant professor of biological chemistry at Harvard Medical School prior to commencing his genetics professorship at Berkeley in 1983.

Gerald Rubin is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine. Among the awards he has received is the American Chemical Society Eli Lilly Award in biological chemistry.

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