Abstract of the lecture
"If you understand everything," says an old Japanese proverb, "you must be misinformed." This is a lesson a good scientist must never forget. True, we have decoded DNA, mapped the human genome, and even made some diseases disappear from the face of the earth. In my own limited area of expertise, the FACS instruments we developed have opened the way to stem cell transplantation, to curing leukemia and to unraveling many other secrets of the single cell. Yet, even as we think we know so much, a young scientist in my laboratory has just discovered an entirely new kind of immune cell, different from all those we have known before.
When I was a young student blowing things up with my chemistry set or learning the mysteries of corn seeds and fruit flies at Brooklyn College, I might have indulged the fantasy that science would, in time, lead us to understand everything. But now I hope I know better. As our knowledge expands and as we develop new technologies that we cannot now imagine, our students and their students will always find more questions than they can answer. Our existential pursuit will never end. This is the joy and the strength of science, which we must once again defend against the irrational attacks of religious zealots who think they already know the ultimate Truth.