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Teaching Thursday: The Original Sin of Molecular Biology

I’ve been away from blogging for awhile.

I intended to spend my summer producing and editing videos, but I wanted to do that on my own content. Instead, because of a miscommunication that wiped out wide swaths of our existing lecture content, I have been spending the last few weeks producing and editing videos to be used in our anatomy & physiology course.

Most of these are specific to the course, but this one is a general introduction to molecular biology.

Recently, my Twitter account was filled with a back-and-forth between an earnest young female scientist who had met, and was taken by the intellectual prowess of, James Watson. A number of us old hands, from many different fields, jumped on her a little more than we should have, telling her about the wrongs that he had perpetrated on science in general and molecular biology in particular.

For example, Ivan Oransky of the excellent “Retraction Watch” and “Embargo Watch” blogs had written an Op-Ed on the subject of James Watson’s crude nonsense for the Boston Globe.

No more august an authority on unpleasant behavior than E.O. Wilson called Watson

the most unpleasant human being I have ever met


which is a sentiment you will hear echoed often, from my brief personal exposure all the way to those who knew him best.

It was in the spirit of trying to pass along to a new generation the bitter lessons of the previous generation that informed me as I sat down to discuss what I call “The Original Sin of Molecular Biology”.