HSCI 2213: The Darwinian Revolution

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All Dreamcourse special evening lectures will be hosted by the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in the Main Auditorium. Each lecture is open to the public and will begin at 6:00pm, with the exception of John Lynch's lecture on February 12th, which will begin at 7:00pm .
Ken Taylor

Professor Emeritus Ken Taylor:
Department of the History of Science,
University of Oklahoma

"Volcanology before Darwin:
From burning mountains to igneous global dynamics

Through much of the 18th century, volcanoes were commonly regarded as local, ephemeral phenomena, and thus of only minor importance in broad geological perspective.  By Darwin’s time, such opinions had given way to the view that volcanoes are manifestations of vast stores of subterranean heat.  Following Charles Lyell, Darwin pursued a geological agenda based on a global economy of crustal uplift and subsidence driven by igneous forces.  In this lecture we examine some of the reasons why many reputable scientists of the 18th century minimized the geological significance of volcanoes; and we consider some of the developments that led to a reversal of this outlook and establishment of a geology hospitable to igneous dynamics.

Professor Taylor, long-time faculty member here at OU, has spent his career researching the history of geology. His latest manuscript publication is The Earth Sciences in the Enlightenment: Studies on the Early Development of Geology. Ashgate, 2007. Taylor was awarded the 2007 Mary C. Rabbitt History of Geology Award, presented by the Geological Society of America at its annual meeting.

Teaching & Evening Lecture:

Thursday 22nd January

Paul White

Dr. Paul White
Darwin Correspondence Project
Affiliated Scholar, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge

"Darwin's Emotions"

If Darwin took 25 yrs to publish his theory of species, he took even longer to address the question that for most people remains the most controversial: human evolution. Darwin famously avoided this subject in Origin of Species, even though he had long considered the implications of evolution for language, morality, the higher forms of intellectual and emotional life. This lecture discusses Darwin's ambitious research on human emotions, which began in his children's nursery, extended to the remotest parts of the globe, and raised difficult questions about the foundation of human feelings, their moral role in society, and their place in science.

Dr. White is currently working on the Darwin Correspondence Project and is the author of Thomas Huxley, Making the "Man of Science", Cambridge, C.U.P. 2003.

Teaching & Evening Lecture:

Tuesday 3rd February

John M. Lynch

Dr. John M. Lynch:
Barratt Honors College,
Arizona State University

"Was There a Darwinian Revolution?"

Universities throughout the world offer courses titled "The Darwinian Revolution" and the idea that something revolutionary occurred in 1859 has reached common currency. Increasingly however, historians have begun to question the nature of the Darwinian Revolution, at least with reference to Thomas Kuhn's ideas on scientific change. This talk will examine what Charles Darwin achieved in 1859, ask whether what occurred in the subsequent 150 years can be considered either "Darwinian" or a "revolution" and finally suggest that we may be looking in the wrong places for any such revolution.

Dr. Lynch specializes in scientific, theological and cultural responses to evolutionary ideas. A well published scientist and historian of science Lynch has also recently been recognised as Arizona Professor of the Year by the CASE/Carnegie Foundation for Teaching Excellence, 2007.mlynch/


Tuesday February 10th

Evening Lecture:

Thursday February 12th*

Michael Ruse

Professor Michael Ruse:
Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor, Department of Philosophy,
Florida State University

"Is Darwinism Past it's "sell-by" date? Reflection on the Origin of Species at one-hundred and fifty years"

In this talk Ruse compares the theory of Charles Darwin in his Origin of Species, published 150 years ago in 1859, with the modern theory of evolution, the theory of 2009.  His intention is to see if any parts of Darwin’s thinking persist to this day and if so what parts and what has been changed or discarded and why.  He argues that in many respects Darwin’s theory is like the 'People’s Car' of Germany in the 1930s.  Today, there is not one piece of that car still being manufactured and incorporated into today’s cars.  And yet, the Beetle of today is still recognizably the car of yesterday.  To make this case, he looks both at the structure of Darwin’s theory and then at the various parts of biology – instinct, paleontology, biogeography, systematics, morphology, embryology – and see how they fare today.  In the light of his conclusions, Ruse will make some brief critical remarks about those today who either deny evolution entirely or who question the efficacy of natural selection. 

Ever since his Darwinian Revolution (1977), Michael Ruse has helped to shape the field of what has become known as the Darwin Industry.  Ruse continues to publish prolifically on the history and philosophy of Darwinism, its reception, and its moral and religious implications.  In view of the coming 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859) Ruse has co-edited the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to the Origin of Species

Teaching & Evening Lecture:

Thursday 26th February

John Beatty

Professor John Beatty
Department of Philosophy, University of British Columbia

"'The Details Left to Chance.' Evolutionary Contingency and its Broader Implications in the Work of Charles Darwin and Stephen Jay Gould."

In his 1989 book, Wonderful Life, Stephen Gould posed the following thought experiment. If we could rewind the “tape” of life back to some point in the past, and then push “play,” would things turn out as before? Gould argued that we would get a different outcome every time. In this presentation I will discuss the idea of evolutionary contingency, from Darwin to Gould, and also some of the broader theological, political and moral issues that have been raised in connection with this sort of unpredictability

Professor Beatty has written extensively on the idea of contingency in evolutionary biology (and in The Simpsons!!!). Among his other projects he is currenlty collaborating with Piers Hale on a book on Charles Kingsley and his very Darwinian fairy-tale Water Babies

Teaching & Evening Lecture

Thursday 12th March

John van Wyhe

John van Wyhe
University of Cambridge & Darwin Online Project

"Darwin's Secret? Was the theory of evolution really held back for twenty years?"

Charles Darwin first conceived of his theory of evolution by natural selection between 1837-1839. He first published it in 1858/9. Why? For decades it has been said that Darwin was afraid to publish and even kept his belief in evolution a secret for 20 years - either because he did not want to offend his religious wife, was afraid of what his colleagues or the church would say or feared for his reputation. This talk aims to completely overturn the view of the cowering Darwin. The true story may not be as dramatic, but it makes sense of all the surviving evidence.

Dr. van Wyhe is founder and Director of the Darwin Online Project, Bye-Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge, affiliate of the Department of History & Philosophy of Science, Member of Council for the British Society for the History of Science.

Teaching & Evening Lecture

Thursday 9th April

Garland Allen

Professor Garland E. Allen:
Department of Biology,
Washington University in St. Louis

"Darwin and Marx and Wagner"

"Darwin, Marx and Wagner might seem like an unlikely, even "unholy" trio, but in fact, as Jacques Barzun recognized so many years ago (1941) they have a lot in common. The were virtual contemporaries (Darwin, the oldest, was born in 1809, Wagner in 1813 and Marx, the youngest, in 1818), and died within a year of each other (1882-1883). They thus spanned virtually the whole of the nineteenth century and were variously involved in its economic, social, political, scientific and artistic developments. While Barzun saw their commonality in espousing a violent, crass and materialistic view of the world in which "might was right", their similarities were actually more profound and interesting. All three were philosophical materialists, but not crudely so; all three were evolutionists, seeing all phenomena in terms of development and historical change, the new growing out of the old and supplanting it; and all three were dialectical thinkers, viewing historical change as driven first and foremost (though not exclusively) by opposing forces within a system (the historical development of human society for Marx, the evolution of animal and plant populations for Darwin, and the development of both the dramatic action and the musical leitmotifs that accompany them for Wagner's mature operas (Tristan und Isolde and the Ring of the Nibelungs). All three both reflect and contributed to the cultural events of their time."

Garland Allen's research is in the history and philosophy of biology - particularly genetics, embryology, and evolution - and their interrelationships. Allen has published widely in the scientific, economic, and social history of "eugenics" (defined in the early part of the century as "the science of human improvement through better breeding"). The history of eugenics provides a number of insights into the interrelationships between science and its social context, and raises many issues of ethical, legal, and social importance that are surfacing today in the midst of the Human Genome Project.

Teaching & Evening Lecture:

Thursday April 16th

Joe Cain

Dr. Joe Cain:
Department of Science and Technology Studies,
University College London

"'A Monkey's Uncle': The 1925 Scopes Trial wasn't what you think!"

“If you think the Scopes Monkey Trial was about evolution, think again. Noone cared if John Scopes taught high school students that star fish descended from sponges, or that flowers descended from ferns. What mattered was man. Not our flesh and bones, but those qualities responsible for our humanity. For anti-evolutionists in the 1920s, “Darwin” was shorthand for a long series of concerns about changes in the economic, cultural, and political fabric of their lives. Opposition to “Darwin” serves as surrogate for those concerns. In this talk, I suggest the same is true today. This phoney war helps no one and resolves nothing. Precious time and energy are wasted on pseudo-technical distractions, when we need to be engaging the far more serious – and genuine – concerns involving change. We can learn from history. Listening to concerns motivating the many charges against Scopes gives us a foundation for engaging some of the cultural divides at work today across the American landscape and across the globe.”

Senior lecturer in history and philosophy of biology. His current research interests include the history of evolutionary studies, history of American science, and history of natural history. Dr. Cain has won the Joseph H. Hazen Education Prize for 2007, awarded by the History of Science Society. This is one of the most important teaching awards in the discipline.  Dr. Cain was awarded the Hazen Prize in recognition of his exemplary teaching and a long record of service to education in the profession.

Teaching & Evening Lecture:

Tuesday April 21st

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Page last updated: January 14th 2009


*Dr. Lynch's evening lecture is hosted by the Darwin@OU 2009 Steering Committee, the OU Honors College, OSLEP, and the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. For more see: Darwin@OU 2009