James D. Watson: The Evangelist of Molecular Biology

20171223_TNA53Valiunasbanner1500wAlgis Valiunas at The New Atlantis:

In Watson’s eyes, science is “the highest form of human achievement.” In his early adolescence, excited by his love of birdwatching, the thought of a career as a naturalist had inspired him. But to pursue such a course, he later came to understand, would be to dabble in trifles. For among the sciences, molecular biology is peerless: Creatures, or to call them by their less poetic name, organisms, become worthy of the most serious interest only when they’re taken apart to their elemental components.

Watson’s view of molecular biology describes an intellectual — and moral — adventure that is just getting underway. The potential of molecular biology for making human existence more agreeable and more complete — more fully human, one might say, not to say trans-human — seems nearly boundless.

Thus Watson eloquently promotes and prophesies. He is our most forceful spokesman for what René Descartes called “knowledge which is most useful in life,” which will “make ourselves, as it were, masters and possessors of nature,” conducing “principally [to] the preservation of health, which is undoubtedly the first good, and the foundation of all the other goods of this life.” Like Descartes, Watson feels a moral obligation to spread the word about the new beneficial possibilities of the everlasting truth put to good use.

more here.