Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al (livredor) wrote,
Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al
livredor

Moral dilemma

So Jim Watson is coming to speak at the institute tomorrow, on the topic of Avoid boring people [sic]. The question is, should I attend?

It's a pretty unique opportunity to meet a childhood hero in the flesh. He's the last surviving member of the double helix quartet, and my eight-year-old self would never forgive me if she knew I'd passed up the opportunity to hear him speak. He's also a racist scum, and I think the kindest thing I can say about him is that he's probably more than a little senile by now.

I don't think he'll say anything terribly new and exciting; he's eighty years old, he's only nominally still active in science. Also, he's well known to be arrogant and self-aggrandizing, though reportedly a lively speaker. Attending the lecture would simply be a case of being able to say I'd been in a room with someone that important to modern biology. It's also a little practically inconvenient, but on a level that would be surmountable if it were anyone else equivalently famous.

I don't think that attending the lecture is really an expression of support for his racist views. I suppose if every scientist in the whole world refused to hear him speak, he would suffer, but I can hardly expect him to care whether I'm there or not. I'm perfectly happy not to buy his books, that's not the issue here. I don't feel comfortable with academic boycotts; science is science, no matter what his politics are. If a younger man came out with racist comments like that, I'd probably still want to attend his lecture because I would actively want to know about his research. I'm fairly certain Watson will be speaking more as a celebrity than a scientist, though; he's going to speculate idly about the future of biological technology and tell us how great he is.

I'm leaning towards going, but I'm conflicted. What do you guys think?
Tags: biology
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