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Darwin – Darwin College Lecture Series 2009

Cambridge University

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Darwin – Darwin College Lecture Series 2009
Darwin – Darwin College Lecture Series 2009

Darwin – Darwin College Lecture Series 2009

Cambridge University

1
Followers
2
Plays
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About Us

In the second term of every academic year since 1986 Darwin College has organised a series of eight public lectures. Each series has been built around a single theme, approached in a multi-disciplinary way, and with each lecture prepared for a general audience by a leading authority on his or her subject.

Latest Episodes

The Boundaries of Darwinism

‘Darwinism’ is often associated with a quite narrowly defined scientific picture. Central to this are the view of evolution as change in the frequency of genes; evolution as overwhelmingly driven by competitive natural selection; and the assumption that living things can be arranged on a branching tree the branches of which are genetically isolated from one another. I believe that this picture has largely outlived its usefulness, and that evolutionary theory is in the midst of a period of radical rethinking that is shifting the boundaries of how we understand evolution. In this lecture I shall focus on the growing realisation of the importance of cooperation in evolution, an idea that has often been sidelined by an excessive emphasis on competition. Mutualism and symbiosis, lateral exchange of genes and endosymbiosis, in which one biological entity is integrated into another, and the evolution of many forms of sociality, are among the phenomena that can be included under the conce...

63 MIN2009 MAR 19
Comments
The Boundaries of Darwinism

Is Human Evolution Over?

Many people – Darwin included – have claimed that the human species will continue to evolve in the future, as it has in the past. That notion gave impetus to the eugenics movement, and to much of modern science fiction. I will argue that, given what we know about the Darwinian processes of natural selection and random change in our own species, that adaptive evolution is – for the time being, and at least in the developed world – more or less over.

63 MIN2009 MAR 4
Comments
Is Human Evolution Over?

Evolution and Conservation of Biodiversity

Understanding how the evolutionary processes expounded by Darwin and Wallace have shaped current patterns of biodiversity is a profound challenge to modern Evolutionary Biogeography. We live in a time of accelerating global change due to human impacts on the biosphere, leading many to refer to an anthropogenic extinction crisis. Yet our knowledge of the distribution of biodiversity remains woefully incomplete. This limits the effectiveness of conservation efforts, especially those within recognized global hotspots. Here then, is the challenge to the new generation of evolutionary biogeographers – to be able to predict the current distribution of diversity, at multiple scales, by harnessing our knowledge of evolutionary processes and past environmental change. From this point, we can forecast better the inevitable impacts future global change and identify strategies that will protect both the products of past evolution and the processes that ensure ongoing viability of natural syste...

72 MIN2009 FEB 25
Comments
Evolution and Conservation of Biodiversity

Darwin and Human Society

Charles Darwin’s work had a profound influence on the study of human society, though in a much slower and more unreliable way than on non-human biology. His most important ideas about human society were not the ones that had the earliest and most visible impact. Rather than retell the familiar story of how ideas about heredity and the centrality of the competitive struggle came to dominate social science in the late 19th century, to be equally vigorously and uncritically repudiated in the 20th, this lecture will focus on a different lesson from Darwin. Our cousinship to other primates, and especially to great apes, has yielded real insights into the organization of human societies. We share many features with other primates, and we differ from them also in important ways besides the obvious ones. As well as summarizing what we can learn about human society from modern primate research, I shall ask how much of this would have surprised Darwin himself. The answer, which draws more on...

77 MIN2009 FEB 19
Comments
Darwin and Human Society

Darwin in the Literary World

Within months of Darwin’s publication of the Origin of Species, novelists, poets and artists began to turn Darwin’s ideas into art. That they have continued to do so up to the present day is a testimony to the imaginative reach of Darwin’s ideas as well as to the extent to which they transformed ways of seeing. Darwinism can be seen running through some of the late nineteenth century’s most richly imaginative prose and poetry including Kingsley’s The Water Babies, Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, H.G. Wells’ Island of Dr Moreau and Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. But where nineteenth-century writers may have seen hybrid monsters, degeneration and extinction, Darwinism has come to have new meanings for each subsequent generation of writers and artists. Novelist and academic Rebecca Stott will show this perpetual re-making and ‘making new’ of Darwin’s ideas by taking a literary journey through late nineteenth-century fiction, to the poetry of Thomas...

56 MIN2009 FEB 12
Comments
Darwin in the Literary World

Global Darwin

Darwin, with his grizzled beard and deep sad eyes, appears today as a ubiquitous icon, his image appearing on posters, book jackets, banknotes, and postage stamps from around the world. The debates about his ideas are international, and have been almost from the first publication of his main evolutionary books. How did this come to be the case? To answer this we can begin by stepping back from the immediate impact of the Origin of Species and Descent of Man, to view these books in the context of long-standing controversies about evolution and materialism from the eighteenth century onwards. Darwin’s work is important in this broader story for three reasons. First, with the reception of Darwin’s books the topic of evolution, which had long sparked conversation in the literary salons of the Atlantic world, became much more closely tied with newly emerging forms of scientific research in laboratories, universities and museums. Second, Darwin’s own vision of nature, like that of his ...

63 MIN2009 FEB 4
Comments
Global Darwin

Darwin's Intellectual Development

By the time of his death Charles Darwin was one of the most celebrated--and one of the most notorious--scientists in the world. Still controversial, Darwin has become an icon of modern science at the same time as his theories have become the basis of modern biology. In this series exploring Darwin's legacy, Janet Browne looks at Darwin's education and intellectual growth with special reference to the Beagle voyage and beyond. Over the years, however, our opinions about key moments in the development of Darwin's ideas have subtly shifted. She will consider the ways in which historians and biographers since Darwin's death have written about the development of his theories, and set these views in the context of changing ideas about biography in the twentieth century.

62 MIN2009 JAN 28
Comments
Darwin's Intellectual Development

The Making of the Fittest

Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is still the mechanism we use to explain organismal adaptation, but the intervening 150 years since the publication of the Origin have led to many new discoveries that help us to document the precise basis of those adaptations – to see the steps of evolution. Chief among these is the sequence of an organism’s DNA , which contains a detailed record of its evolutionary history – a record of how the fittest are made. Dr. Carroll will explain how the adaptations of some amazing animals to various environments – the freezing waters of the Antarctic, lava flows, or the colorful jungle, are reflected in the DNA record of some marvelous creatures.

59 MIN2009 JAN 21
Comments
The Making of the Fittest
the END

Latest Episodes

The Boundaries of Darwinism

‘Darwinism’ is often associated with a quite narrowly defined scientific picture. Central to this are the view of evolution as change in the frequency of genes; evolution as overwhelmingly driven by competitive natural selection; and the assumption that living things can be arranged on a branching tree the branches of which are genetically isolated from one another. I believe that this picture has largely outlived its usefulness, and that evolutionary theory is in the midst of a period of radical rethinking that is shifting the boundaries of how we understand evolution. In this lecture I shall focus on the growing realisation of the importance of cooperation in evolution, an idea that has often been sidelined by an excessive emphasis on competition. Mutualism and symbiosis, lateral exchange of genes and endosymbiosis, in which one biological entity is integrated into another, and the evolution of many forms of sociality, are among the phenomena that can be included under the conce...

63 MIN2009 MAR 19
Comments
The Boundaries of Darwinism

Is Human Evolution Over?

Many people – Darwin included – have claimed that the human species will continue to evolve in the future, as it has in the past. That notion gave impetus to the eugenics movement, and to much of modern science fiction. I will argue that, given what we know about the Darwinian processes of natural selection and random change in our own species, that adaptive evolution is – for the time being, and at least in the developed world – more or less over.

63 MIN2009 MAR 4
Comments
Is Human Evolution Over?

Evolution and Conservation of Biodiversity

Understanding how the evolutionary processes expounded by Darwin and Wallace have shaped current patterns of biodiversity is a profound challenge to modern Evolutionary Biogeography. We live in a time of accelerating global change due to human impacts on the biosphere, leading many to refer to an anthropogenic extinction crisis. Yet our knowledge of the distribution of biodiversity remains woefully incomplete. This limits the effectiveness of conservation efforts, especially those within recognized global hotspots. Here then, is the challenge to the new generation of evolutionary biogeographers – to be able to predict the current distribution of diversity, at multiple scales, by harnessing our knowledge of evolutionary processes and past environmental change. From this point, we can forecast better the inevitable impacts future global change and identify strategies that will protect both the products of past evolution and the processes that ensure ongoing viability of natural syste...

72 MIN2009 FEB 25
Comments
Evolution and Conservation of Biodiversity

Darwin and Human Society

Charles Darwin’s work had a profound influence on the study of human society, though in a much slower and more unreliable way than on non-human biology. His most important ideas about human society were not the ones that had the earliest and most visible impact. Rather than retell the familiar story of how ideas about heredity and the centrality of the competitive struggle came to dominate social science in the late 19th century, to be equally vigorously and uncritically repudiated in the 20th, this lecture will focus on a different lesson from Darwin. Our cousinship to other primates, and especially to great apes, has yielded real insights into the organization of human societies. We share many features with other primates, and we differ from them also in important ways besides the obvious ones. As well as summarizing what we can learn about human society from modern primate research, I shall ask how much of this would have surprised Darwin himself. The answer, which draws more on...

77 MIN2009 FEB 19
Comments
Darwin and Human Society

Darwin in the Literary World

Within months of Darwin’s publication of the Origin of Species, novelists, poets and artists began to turn Darwin’s ideas into art. That they have continued to do so up to the present day is a testimony to the imaginative reach of Darwin’s ideas as well as to the extent to which they transformed ways of seeing. Darwinism can be seen running through some of the late nineteenth century’s most richly imaginative prose and poetry including Kingsley’s The Water Babies, Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, H.G. Wells’ Island of Dr Moreau and Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. But where nineteenth-century writers may have seen hybrid monsters, degeneration and extinction, Darwinism has come to have new meanings for each subsequent generation of writers and artists. Novelist and academic Rebecca Stott will show this perpetual re-making and ‘making new’ of Darwin’s ideas by taking a literary journey through late nineteenth-century fiction, to the poetry of Thomas...

56 MIN2009 FEB 12
Comments
Darwin in the Literary World

Global Darwin

Darwin, with his grizzled beard and deep sad eyes, appears today as a ubiquitous icon, his image appearing on posters, book jackets, banknotes, and postage stamps from around the world. The debates about his ideas are international, and have been almost from the first publication of his main evolutionary books. How did this come to be the case? To answer this we can begin by stepping back from the immediate impact of the Origin of Species and Descent of Man, to view these books in the context of long-standing controversies about evolution and materialism from the eighteenth century onwards. Darwin’s work is important in this broader story for three reasons. First, with the reception of Darwin’s books the topic of evolution, which had long sparked conversation in the literary salons of the Atlantic world, became much more closely tied with newly emerging forms of scientific research in laboratories, universities and museums. Second, Darwin’s own vision of nature, like that of his ...

63 MIN2009 FEB 4
Comments
Global Darwin

Darwin's Intellectual Development

By the time of his death Charles Darwin was one of the most celebrated--and one of the most notorious--scientists in the world. Still controversial, Darwin has become an icon of modern science at the same time as his theories have become the basis of modern biology. In this series exploring Darwin's legacy, Janet Browne looks at Darwin's education and intellectual growth with special reference to the Beagle voyage and beyond. Over the years, however, our opinions about key moments in the development of Darwin's ideas have subtly shifted. She will consider the ways in which historians and biographers since Darwin's death have written about the development of his theories, and set these views in the context of changing ideas about biography in the twentieth century.

62 MIN2009 JAN 28
Comments
Darwin's Intellectual Development

The Making of the Fittest

Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is still the mechanism we use to explain organismal adaptation, but the intervening 150 years since the publication of the Origin have led to many new discoveries that help us to document the precise basis of those adaptations – to see the steps of evolution. Chief among these is the sequence of an organism’s DNA , which contains a detailed record of its evolutionary history – a record of how the fittest are made. Dr. Carroll will explain how the adaptations of some amazing animals to various environments – the freezing waters of the Antarctic, lava flows, or the colorful jungle, are reflected in the DNA record of some marvelous creatures.

59 MIN2009 JAN 21
Comments
The Making of the Fittest
the END
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