6 episodes

The Darwin 2009 Festival, 5-10 July 2009, celebrated the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth and the sesquicentenary of the publication of his most famous book, On the Origin of Species. About 1500 people attended the core Festival and at least the same number again attended the related exhibitions, tours and fringe events during the week. The programme comprised over 70 separate events and included 110 outstanding speakers. Intended to appeal to a broad audience, from academics to teenagers, the Festival covered a highly varied range of topics. The Festival encapsulated the current state of understanding of evolution. It addressed the agreements and disagreements; it revealed how far we have come and the possibilities and choices that may face us in the future. Video recordings of all the morning sessions listed by day, can be found on these web pages. Each session commences with a quote from Darwin’s correspondence. This is followed by two talks of around 25 minutes each. These are followed by presentations from 4 panellists each taking around 8 minutes. A selection of audio recordings of talks from the afternoon sessions can also be found on these pages. The full programme and abstract booklet for the Festival can be down loaded at http://www.darwin2009.cam.ac.uk/Festival/

The Darwin 2009 Festival Cambridge University

    • Courses

The Darwin 2009 Festival, 5-10 July 2009, celebrated the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth and the sesquicentenary of the publication of his most famous book, On the Origin of Species. About 1500 people attended the core Festival and at least the same number again attended the related exhibitions, tours and fringe events during the week. The programme comprised over 70 separate events and included 110 outstanding speakers. Intended to appeal to a broad audience, from academics to teenagers, the Festival covered a highly varied range of topics. The Festival encapsulated the current state of understanding of evolution. It addressed the agreements and disagreements; it revealed how far we have come and the possibilities and choices that may face us in the future. Video recordings of all the morning sessions listed by day, can be found on these web pages. Each session commences with a quote from Darwin’s correspondence. This is followed by two talks of around 25 minutes each. These are followed by presentations from 4 panellists each taking around 8 minutes. A selection of audio recordings of talks from the afternoon sessions can also be found on these pages. The full programme and abstract booklet for the Festival can be down loaded at http://www.darwin2009.cam.ac.uk/Festival/

    • video
    Dame Gillian Beer, Darwin's universal impact, Mon 6 July

    Dame Gillian Beer, Darwin's universal impact, Mon 6 July

    Darwin imagining others: observation and language. Professor Dame Gillian Beer (University of Cambridge, UK). Summary: Darwin was a famously attentive observer, responding to movement, gesture, and the invisible thrust of desires in an array of life forms from oysters and climbing plants to human beings of many cultures. This talk will draw on materials from the whole course of Darwin's life and writing. It will demonstrate how speculation in his early private notebooks fuels his much later arguments and it will investigate how Darwin explores the awkward fit between 'expression' and 'emotions'. Being human, in his understanding, implies the effort to recognize, and perhaps to enter, other forms of consciousness. Language, as a particularly human tool, is itself caught up in the evolutionary process - 'half-art and half-instinct', as he observed. How does it help - and hamper - the investigation of different species? And what can be learnt about being human by mimicry and empathy with other sentient beings? These are questions that stretch Darwin's capacities and whose challenges he meets. The talk will investigate the degree to which his arguments still trouble our understanding.

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    Jon Hodge, Darwin's universal impact, Mon July 6

    Jon Hodge, Darwin's universal impact, Mon July 6

    How could Charles Darwin have all these impacts?
    Dr Jon Hodge (University of Leeds, UK) Summary: Were Darwin the English parson naturalist of legend, his vast impact would be paradoxical. See the young Darwin, not as failed Anglican cleric, but successful Scottish (and French and German) man of science and philosophy, an international intellectual indeed (more Edinburgh than Cambridge) and the paradox is lost.

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    Ludmillia Jordanova, Darwin's universal impact, Mon July 6

    Ludmillia Jordanova, Darwin's universal impact, Mon July 6

    The Impact of Images of Darwin
    Professor Ludmilla Jordanova (Department of History, King's College London) Summary: Millions of people can recognize the figure of Charles Darwin. My brief presentation examines some portraits of him, and considers their impact. I am particularly interested in his connections with John Collier, Huxley's son-in-law, who produced one of the most memorable images of him, and with Marion, Collier's wife, who sketched him informally.

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    Richard Dawkins, Darwin's universal impact, Mon July 6

    Richard Dawkins, Darwin's universal impact, Mon July 6

    Darwin's five bridges. Professor Richard Dawkins (University of Oxford, UK) Summary: Was Darwin the most revolutionary scientist ever? If, by revolutionary, we mean the scientist whose discovery initiated the most seismic overturning of pre-existing science, the honour would at least be contested by Newton, Einstein and the architects of quantum theory. Those same physicists might have outclassed Darwin in sheer intellectual fire power. But Darwin probably did revolutionize the world view of people outside science more comprehensively than any other scientist. I want to recognize four 'bridges to evolutionary understanding'. The first bridge is to natural selection as a force for weeding out the unfit. The second bridge is the recognition that natural selection can drive evolutionary change. Bridge number three leads to the imaginative grasp of the importance of natural selection in explaining all of life, in all its speciose richness. Bridge number four is the bridge to public understanding and appreciation. Darwin crossed it alone, in 1859, by writing On the Origin of Species. The fifth bridge, which Darwin himself never crossed was neo-Darwinism or what I shall rename 'digital Darwinism' because the essence of Mendelian genetics is that it is digital. As crests get longer, or eyes rounder, or tails gaudier, what is really being carved by natural selection is the gene pool. As mutation and sexual recombination enrich the gene pool, the chisels of natural selection carve it into shape, working away through geological time. It is an image that might have seemed strange to Darwin. But I think he would have come to love it.

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    Elliot Sober, Darwin's universal impact, Mon July 6

    Elliot Sober, Darwin's universal impact, Mon July 6

    Philosophical implications of Darwin's theory of evolution
    Professor Elliott Sober (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA) Summary: What are the philosophical implications of Darwin's theory of evolution?
    Do they show that there is no God, that materialism is true, and that ethics is a matter of opinion, not fact? Here I think we need to remember what the biochemist Jacques Monod said in another context: 'any confusion between the ideas suggested by science and science itself must be carefully avoided'. In this connection, I'll discuss Darwin's theory and its relation to what is now called methodological naturalism.

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    Terry Molloy, Darwin's universal impact, Mon July 6

    Terry Molloy, Darwin's universal impact, Mon July 6

    Voice of Darwin (in morning sessions) Terry Molloy is an actor, director, producer, trainer and corporate presenter. He is the voice of 'Mike Tucker' (the milkman from hell) in The Archers (BBC Radio 4), and has appeared on TV in Dr Who as the Doctor's nemesis 'Davros', creator of the Daleks, from 1983 to 1989, continuing through to today on audio CDs. He is currently appearing as 'Charles Darwin' in 'Re: Design' by Craig Baxter.

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