"When I started out in '84/'85, intent on studying the genomes of ancient civilizations, I was, as is often the case in this kind of situation, driven by delusions of grandeur. I thought that I would be able to easily study the ancient genomes. I dreamt of addressing questions in Egyptology. For example, how do historico-political events that we read about impact the population? When Alexander the Great comes to Egypt, what is the influence on the population? Is it just a political change? The Arab Conquest: does that mean that a large part of the population is replaced? Or is it mainly a cultural change? There's no way we can answer this question from historical records. But my dream was to address questions like this. Then, after some initial success, I realized the real limitations on what I wanted to do."
"These findings may capture people's imagination—so often, people think there is not much they can do, what I call genetic nihilism. But even if your mother and your father and your sister and brother and aunts and uncles all died from heart disease, it doesn't mean that you need to. It just means that you are more likely to be genetically predisposed. If you are willing to make big enough changes, there is no reason you need ever develop heart disease, except in relatively rare cases."
"Another example that we've been investigating arehuge swarms of Mormon crickets. If you look at these swarms, all of the individuals are marching in the same direction, and it looks like cooperative behavior. Perhaps they have come to a collective decision to move from one place to another. We investigated this collective decision, and what really makes this system work in the case of the Mormon cricket is cannibalism."
"The only thing that hasn't been engineered are the living things, ourselves. Again, what's the consequence of doing that at scale? Biotechnology is 30 years old; it's a young adult. Most of the work is still to come, but how do we actually do it? Let's not talk about it, let's actually go do it, and then let's deal with the consequences in terms of how this is going to change ourselves, how the biosecurity framework needs to recognize that it's not going to be nation-state driven work necessarily, how an ownership sharing and innovation framework needs to be developed that moves beyond patent-based intellectual property and recognizes that the information defining the genetic material's going to be more important than the stuff itself and so you might transition away from patents to copyright and so on and so forth.."
"It's not everyday you have Richard Dawkins and Craig Venter on a stage talking for an hour about "Life: A Gene-Centric View". That it occured in Germany, where the culture has been resistant to open discussion of genetics, and at DLD, the Digital, Life, Design conference organized by Hubert Burda Media in Munich, a high-level event for the digital elite — the movers and shakers of the Internet — was particularly interesting. This event was a continuation of the Edge "Life: What a Concept!" meeting in August, 2008."
"Songs can survive hundreds of years of geographical and cultural separation."
"I've spoken to these eggs many times and they make it quite clear...they are not a human being."
"It turns out that when you test newborn babies—this experiment was done at the age of 24 hours old, where we had 100 babies who were tested looking at two kinds of objects—a human face and a mechanical mobile. And they were filmed for how long they looked at each of these two objects. What you can see here is that on the first day of life, we had more boys than girls looking for longer at the mechanical mobile and more girls than boys looking at the face. So you can see that these differences when they emerge, first of all they seem to emerge very early—at birth—suggesting that there may be a biological component to a sex difference in, in this case, interest in faces; and secondly, they don't apply to all males or all females, these differences emerge as statistical trends when you compare groups."
"You are a leaf-cutting ant from South America. You will compete against the humans across the aisle in a foraging activity. You're task is to collect as much forage as possible. There's a reason ants are so successful. They're disciplined. They follow a series of rules. The first rule is no talking. Ants can't talk so you can't talk. The second rule is no gestures, facial or otherwise. And to make sure you can't use facial expressions we're going to put a paper bag on your head. The third rule is 'Ant walking'. ...
"If you look at people who sequence DNA—the original DNA sequences, which is a wonderful piece of work of course—in Watson's own DNA sequence—it's a very platonic view of what life is all about. You take a human being, an exemple, an exemplar, J.D. Watson. You've got his DNA. That's the end of the story.??"But of course it isn't like that. If there wasn't difference, then we wouldn't have genetics. We wouldn't have evolution. We'd all be stuck in the primeval slime. Genetics has moved on to think about difference. Why are people, why are snails, so different from each other?"