Public programs : Short courses

Darwin: the man, his science, and his legacy

A University of California Museum of Paleontology short course
Darwin: the man, his science, and his legacy

Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809. His birthday is an opportunity to celebrate his contribution to science and its influence in such diverse academic fields as biology, anthropology, and medicine. To kick off the multiple celebrations that will be taking place in the Bay Area, UCMP offers you the opportunity to join historians and evolutionary biologists as they discuss the extraordinary life of Charles Darwin, his contributions, his legacy, and our current understandings of evolutionary theory. Speakers will include Keith Thomson, Kipling Will, Kevin Padian, and Eugenie Scott.

Saturday, February 7, 2009
2050 Valley Life Sciences Building, UC Berkeley
9:00 am to 4:00 pm

As an added bonus, a teacher workshop on evolution presented by UCMP, California Academy of Sciences, Human Evolution Research Center, KQED QUEST, SETI, and the National Center for Science Education will be held the following day on Sunday, February 8, 9:30 am to 3:00 pm (registration opens at 9:00 am). The workshop, held in 2063 VLSB, will include behind-the-scenes tours of the Human Evolution Research Center and lunch. More information is available here.

Agenda Campus parking map (pdf)




Introductory remarks


What were the sources of Darwin's ideas?
Keith Thomson, professor emeritus of natural history, University of Oxford and Senior Research Fellow of the American Philosophical Society
How and when did Darwin actually come to his revolutionary ideas on "transmutation of species?" How did a quiet and shy 27-year-old with no apparent credentials as an intellectual, who had moreover been isolated for five years on a small ship (H.M.S. Beagle) on a voyage around the world, develop the most dangerous idea of the last two hundred years? Darwin was an intensely ambitious man who used his voracious reading and the experiences of the voyage to set out a new "System of Nature." The core of Darwin's idea is elegant in its simplicity and daunting in the range of its consequences. He developed it over a period of five years, from 1837 to 1842, but new study shows that his earlier years as a student in Edinburgh and Cambridge provided much of the intellectual framework for his thinking.




Darwin's scientific legacy
Kevin Padian, Professor of Integrative Biology, and Curator, Museum of Paleontology
From natural selection to the action of worms on soil, the ideas of Charles Darwin have had a sweeping influence on biology and geology. But his work has also affected many facets of social and intellectual life, from psychology to literature. What were his major ideas, how did they revolutionize science, and how do they hold up today?


Discussion and audience Q&A on Charles Darwin — Kevin Padian and Keith Thomson.
Emphasis (in part) on where evolution is today, and why continuing controversies don't indicate a crisis in the field, but active inquiry and advances.


Lunch (on your own)


A Taste for Insects
Kipling Will, Associate Professor and Insect Systematist in Environmental Science Policy and Management and Associate Director of the Essig Museum of Entomology, UC Berkeley
How did the passion for collecting and collections of Darwin, Wallace and others of their period force them to understand and explain biodiversity. What is the legacy of this period of adventure and species discovery and how is it a vital part of current and future evolutionary research?




Evolution and Intelligent Design: A view from the Dover trial
Kevin Padian, Professor of Integrative Biology, and Curator, Museum of Paleontology
In 2005, eleven parents sued the Dover, PA, school board for requiring that a statement be read in biology classes promoting "intelligent design" as science and denigrating evolution. The case garnered international attention, and the decision was a resounding defeat for ID proponents. What was at stake, and what did the trial do? What is the "new" ID anyway, and what are its proponents really after? And what will they do next?


What will the creationists do next?
Eugenie C. Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, Inc.
After the failure of Intelligent Design to survive a legal test of its constitutionality (Kitzmiller vs. Dover) the creationist movement evolved new strategies. These call for teaching the "strengths and weaknesses of evolution" or the "critical analysis of evolution" which are creationism in disguise. In lieu of Dover-like policies promoting the teaching of Intelligent Design, the Discovery Institute has provided model legislation for states to pass to promote these approaches. This "Academic Freedom Act" legislation has popped up in several states already, and reflects the creationism du jour.


Discussion — Kevin Padian and Eugenie Scott

About the speakers

Keith Thomson is professor emeritus of Natural History, University of Oxford and Senior Research Fellow of the American Philosophical Society. Previously he was professor and director of the University Museum, Oxford, University; University Distinguished-Scientist-in-Residence, New School for Social Research; president, Academy of Natural Science of Philadelphia; and professor, dean, and director of the Peabody Museum at Yale University. He is the author of thirteen books including Living Fossil (1991); HMS Beagle (1995) Fossils: A very Short Introduction (2005), Before Darwin (2005), The Legacy of the Mastodon (2008); A Passion for Nature: Thomas Jefferson and Natural History (2008) and The Young Charles Darwin (2009).

Kevin Padian has been a professor of evolutionary biology and paleontology at Berkeley since 1980. He is interested in how big changes get started in evolution, and in the history of thought about biology and evolution. A lot of his focus is on the age of dinosaurs and how dinosaurs evolved into birds. He is also the long-time President of the National Center for Science Education, the pre-eminent organization that explains the creationism vs. science issue to the public. In 2005 he was an expert witness in the Dover, Pennsylvania "Intelligent Design" trial.

Kipling Will is an Associate Professor and Insect Systematist in Environmental Science Policy and Management and Associate Director of the Essig Museum of Entomology, UC Berkeley. He is a systematist and taxonomist with interests in defensive chemical and behavioral evolution, historical biogeography, and the theory and practice of systematics. His studies use a broad range of data types to develop phylogenetic hypotheses for massively diverse worldwide beetle groups, with an emphasis on groups distributed in the Southern Hemisphere.

Eugenie C. Scott is Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, Inc., a non-profit organization that supports the teaching of evolution in the public schools. A former university professor, she is internationally-known as an authority on the creationism/evolution controversy in the United States.

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