NEW YORK – “Art and science illuminate each other,” said an enthusiastic Alan Alda. “The long-lost lovers have been waiting to reunite and fall in love all over again.”
The five-day World Science Festival kicked off Wednesday evening in New York at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall with a celebration in honor of Pulitzer-winning biologist E.O. Wilson‘s 80th birthday.
“I really didn’t think there was any reason to know him,” joked James Watson, a friend of the honoree and winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize for his discovery of DNA. “We all thought biology was the dumb part of science.”
Emceed by notables including Alda and Glenn Close, the event provided an amusing fusion of art and science, incorporating scientific theories and photographs with live music. Performances by cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the National Dance Institution, violinist Joshua Bell, string theorist Brian Greene and conductor Marin Alsop with the St. Luke’s Orchestra kept the audience entertained.
Enjoying the podium for quite some time, 82-year-old Watson, who was invited by Wilson to speak, slipped into a lecture on evolution. “We live in a world without a god,” he soberly emphasized.
Despite Watson’s digression, which drew reactions both tense and convivial, the evening remained lively and the audience left happy.
“People seemed very surprised,” said Tracy Day, Emmy-winning journalist and co-founder of the World Science Festival, during the event’s reception. “People didn’t expect to be moved at a science event.”