Links o' the Day: Science and Medicine Today
These links are related to my Science and Medicine Today class (taught by Adrian Johns), which is arguably the most interesting class I've taken at U of C.
The first is a New York Times book review of Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics, which summarizes the numerous "neo-creo" arguments against Darwinism, beyond the literal reading of Genesis.
And similarly, Darwin v. Intelligent Design (Again) from the Boston Review.
Just because I like this class so much, I've included my weekly response paper in the extended text of this entry.
This weekly response for my Science and Medicine Today class is based on Max Weber's 1918 speech Science as a Vocation (which I very highly recommend to everybody) and Watson's controversial book The Double Helix.
Watson09s conduct as a scientist contrasts Weber09s description of science as a vocation. Weber says that scientists ought to engage in 06science for science09s sake07, while Watson09s primary motive is beating Pauling to a Nobel Prize. Weber talks about a scientist humbly resigning that 06what he has accomplished will be antiquated in fifty years,07 while Watson and his colleagues brag at a local pub that they09ve found 06the secret of life07. Fame and prestige seem to be Watson09s primary concerns, making an important contribution to science is only a proximate goal. This evaluation of Watson09s priorities, however, is somewhat subjective, since one09s reputation is built on one09s contribution to science, and one09s ability to contribute to science is in part based on one09s reputation in the scientific community: the two are inextricably linked.
Rosalind Franklin was more similar to Weber09s vocational and scholarly scientist. She was austere and disciplined, meticulously making hundreds of X-Ray pictures. According to Watson09s sexist analysis, she preferred to 06gather more data,07 devoting her life to the serious pursuit of crystallography, rather than 06doing something novel with her hair07. In a sense, she did the difficult lab work necessary to verify any theory about the structure of DNA while Watson played with glorified tinker toys waiting for genius to strike.
From Watson09s own portrayal of his personality, he emphasizes his more unrefined qualities; chasing undergraduate women at parties, watching risqu05 films, and being rude and condescending towards other scientists. He is arrogant and mischievous, taunting the reader to believe that such an uncouth person could make such an important discovery. Watson, by displaying some baser elements of human nature, reveals the idealism of Weber09s 06inward calling07 of a scientist. Few scientists would devote their lives to meticulously gathering data just to make a small contribution to a narrow field of study that would soon be superceded. That seems more accurately to be the life of a graduate research assistant. Most professional research scientists are probably self-interested like Watson. They seek the prestige of making a lasting contribution, and the opportunity to goof off and play with glorified toys.