Thursday, February 12, 2009

Unfinished business

For Darwin's anniversary we published a three page essay about why his revolution in thought was unfinished. This essay was drafted last year, and at the time had rather a different ending. It basically aired the same point argued by Stephen Jay Gould, that life is just an accident and if you replayed evolution with just a few things different, the outcome (humans, for example) would be different.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to a science breakfast with Prospect magazine towards the end of the year with a number of other science journalists and writers. We were asked to talk about some of the ideas we thought were important over the following twelve months and I explained what I had in mind for the Darwin anniversary. Alun Anderson, the former editor of New Scientist, was also at this breakfast. He asked me if I had read Simon Conway Morris's book. I had not. He said that Conway Morris has a very different idea about how evolution works.

I followed this tip up, and picked up a copy of the 2003 book: Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe. I will not tell you a lie and say that I have read all of it, but the parts I have paint an exciting and new picture of how evolution might work. I revised the Darwin piece to take account of this new idea, and The Economist asked Professor Conway Morris to record an audio interview. I heartily recommend the podcast. If you have even a passing interest in evolution, Professor Conway Morris is a fascinating individual.

I've also got a couple of broadcasts coming up on Marketplace, a programme on American Public Media, on the subject of Darwinism, business and the markets.

Updated 13th February, 2009: Marketplace broadcast: Why the markets are not Darwinian.

Unfinished business
Charles Darwin’s ideas have spread widely, but his revolution is not yet complete. Feb 5th 2009

Podcast with Simon Conway Morris, a paleontologist from the University of Cambridge.

Daily chart, belief in evolution.