The Darwin Lectures
150 years ago, Charles Darwin’s ideas about evolution were first announced in public – to a meeting of the Linnean Society in London. Oddly, almost no one noticed!
It might not have helped that the joint paper (with Alfred Russell Wallace) was given the ripping title ‘On the Tendency of Species to Form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection’.
A year later when the book came out everyone realised just what a big bang it was in terms of ideas. The paper, the book, and now the radio lecture series…
From Sunday 24 August 2008, Radio New Zealand explores the ideas of Darwin and their impact. This six-part series from the Royal Society plays in our Sunday Feature slot, and features some of New Zealand’s most eminent scientists.
Lecture 1 – Darwin and the Evolution of an Idea
Professor Lloyd Spenser Davis, University of Otago
In the last 2000 years there has been one idea, above all else, that has altered the way we view the world and our place in it. That idea is evolution by natural selection and the originator of the idea was Charles Darwin.
Recorded 19 August in Napier(duration: 50′45″)
Download: Ogg Vorbis MP3
Lecture 2 – The Evolution of Biological Complexity
Professor Paul Rainey FRSNZ, Massey University
Professor Rainey paints a picture of life’s evolution from the perspective of major evolutionary transitions, including that from solitary organisms to societies.
Recorded 28 July in New Plymouth(duration: 51′54″)
Download: Ogg Vorbis MP3
Lecture 3. The Principle of Evolution: Absolute Simplicity
Professor David Penny CNZM FRSNZ, Research Director, Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, Massey University
Can we find anything in biology that is not understandable, or not explainable, by the things we can observe and measure in the present? Evolution is, by far, the simplest possible way of understanding ourselves, our past, and our future.
Recorded 20 August in Palmerston North
Lecture 4. The fossil record
Professor Alan Cooper, Director, Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, The University of Adelaide
How should we interpret what the fossil record tells us about evolution – both in general, and with regard to how New Zealand has ended up as it is today?
Recorded 18 August in Gisborne
5. Evolutionary Psychology
Professor Russell Gray, The University of Auckland
Attempts to explain human behaviour in evolutionary terms have a mixed history. Today, crude social Darwinian and socio-biological explanations are increasingly being replaced by richer, more complex theories.
Recorded 3 September in Hamilton
6. The Storytelling Ape: Evolution, Art, Story, Culture
Professor Brian Boyd, The University of Auckland
Brian Boyd will focus on art, perhaps the feature of human behavior that might seem to have least to do with a struggle for existence. Can biology explain why art (music, dance, visual art, storytelling and verse) is a human universal? Why do we so compulsively invent and engage with stories we know to be untrue?
Recorded 8 September, in Nelson