Matt Ridley, formally Matthew White Ridley, 5th Viscount Ridley

Ridley, formally Matthew White Ridley, 5th Viscount Ridley

British Author, Scientist, Journalist, Columnist, Chairman of the International Center for Life, Professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Author Quotes

Sex is merely a genetic joint venture. The process of choosing somebody to have sex with, which used to be known as falling in love, is mysterious, cerebral, and highly selective.

Sex is not about reproduc-tion, gender is not about males and females, courtship is not aboutpersuasion, fashion is not about beauty, and love is not about affec-tion. Below the surface of every banality and cliche there lies irony,cynicism, and profundity.

Simple determinism, whether of the genetic or environmental kind, is a depressing prospect for those with a fondness for free will.

Technology is more than just a barometer of human collaboration. It is the embodiment of human collective intelligence. Most of the technologies we use, as the economist Friedrich Hayek first observed, are things that nobody knows how to make from scratch. Humans have transcended the limits of their own brain power by combining their brains into networks.

The body is merely an evolutionary vehicle for the gene

The fuel on which science runs is ignorance. Science is like a hungry furnace that must be fed logs from the forests of ignorance that surround us. In the process, the clearing we call knowledge expands, but the more it expands, the longer its perimeter and the more ignorance comes into view.

The gene contains a single 'word', repeated over and over again: CAG, CAG, CAG, CAG ... The repetition continues sometimes just six times, sometimes thirty, sometimes more than a hundred times. Your destiny, your sanity and your life hang by the thread of this repetition. If the 'word' is repeated thirty-five times or fewer, you will be fine.

The genome is a book that wrote itself, continually adding, deleting and amending over four billion years.

The genome that we decipher in this generation is but a snapshot of an ever-changing document. There is no definitive edition.

The study of human beings remained resolutely unreformed by these ideas until a few years ago. Even now, most anthropologists and social scientists are firmly committed to the view that evolution has nothing to tell them. Human bodies are products of culture, and human culture does not reflect human nature, but the reverse. This restricts social scientists to investigation only differences between cultures and between individuals--and to exaggerating them. Yet what is most interesting to me about human beings is the things that are the same, not what is different--things like grammatical language, hierarchy, romantic love, sexual jealousy, long-term bongs between the genders (marriage, in a sense). These are trainable instincts peculiar to out species and are just as surely the products of evolution as eyes and thumbs.

The wonderful thing about knowledge is that it is genuinely limitless. There is not even a theoretical possibility of exhausting the supply of ideas, discoveries and inventions. This is the biggest cause of all for my optimism. It is a beautiful feature of information systems that they are far vaster than physical systems: the combinatorial vastness of the universe of possible ideas dwarfs the puny universe of physical things.

There is no nature that exists devoid of nurture; there is no nurture that develops without nature. To say otherwise is like saying that the area of a field is determined by its length but not its width. Every behavior is the product of an instinct trained by experience.

Uniqueness is the commodity of glut.

We consciously decide whether to consider people; we fall in love despite ourselves; we entirely fail to fall in love with people who fall in love with us. It is a mightily complicated business.

Random violence makes the news precisely because it is so rare, routine kindness does not make the news precisely because it is so commonplace.

A four-letter alphabet called DNA.

I think if you put people in front of some huge temptation where it's possible to grab as much as they can for themselves, almost everyone will. The beauty of commerce is that it mutes that. The chap behind the counter in the corner shop has no interest in short-changing you, because he wants you to come back.

A true scientist is bored by knowledge; it is the assault on ignorance that motivates him - the mysteries that previous discoveries have revealed.

I thought journalism would enable me to be a mile wide and an inch deep.

Anaxagoras? belief that lying on the right side during sex would produce a boy was so influential that centuries later some French aristocrats had their left testicles amputated.

I try and get it right the first time. I may rewrite a sentence four or five times, but I rarely go back and kill a whole page and rewrite it.

And it seems that pessimism genes might quite literally be commoner than optimism genes: only about 20 per cent of people are homozygous for the long version of the serotonin transporter gene, which possibly endows them with a genetic tendency to look on the bright side.

If people are all the same underneath, how has society changed so fast and so radically? Life now is completely different to how it was 32,000 years ago. It's changed like that of no other species has. What's made that difference?

At some point, human intelligence became collective and cumulative in a way that happened to no other animal.

If, as a professor, you ask four men and two women each to wear a cotton T-shirt, no deodorant and no perfume, for two nights, then hand these T-shirts to you, you will probably be humored as a mite kinky.

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Ridley, formally Matthew White Ridley, 5th Viscount Ridley
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British Author, Scientist, Journalist, Columnist, Chairman of the International Center for Life, Professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory