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Jason Pontin

A View from Jason Pontin

Dr Tatianna's Dad Is Going to China

Horace Freeland Judson, the author of The Eighth Day of Creation (by far the best book on the revolution in biology: vivid, comprehensive, intellectually swashbuckling) is travelling to China for me to write about Chinese attitudes and standards in…

  • May 19, 2005

Horace Freeland Judson, the author of The Eighth Day of Creation (by far the best book on the revolution in biology: vivid, comprehensive, intellectually swashbuckling) is travelling to China for me to write about Chinese attitudes and standards in the life sciences. His thesis: the Confucian ethical system (and its later overlay: a kind of Collectivist Gerontocracy) is not entirely suited to openness or free inquiry and debate. Do I believe this? What do I think about the future of the life sciences in China? My hunch is that the Chinese will be very good at biology, as they seem to be very good at most other organized forms of social behavior. Write and tell me your views.

Here are two interesting, little known facts about Horace, who is a very dear man. First, his daughter is Olivia Judson (pictured), the Dr Tatianna who had sex advice for all of creation. Second, The Eighth Day of Creation was excerpted in its entirety in The New Yorker in three parts by the magazine’s great editor, William Shawn–an event that is commonly thought to have spurred Shawn’s firing. People said, “This is interesting–but did the old boy really have to devote 3 whole issues to an obscure branch of science?”

I find this last fact… I don’t know: piquuant. It is quite unimaginable today that an editor would have the authority to make such an anti-commercial decision: we’re all business people now, answerable to the business interests that govern our publications. But at the same time, no one today needs to be convinced that biology is important.

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