Unravelling Evolution; Darwin's Legacy Lives Strong and the Debates Live on. Dr Jack Cohen and Michael Overduin Explain

Article excerpt

Byline: Dr Jack Cohen;Michael Overduin

It's the book that changed the world and started a thousand arguments. It continues to captivate audiences across the globe, from Andrew Marr's series on the BBC to right here in Birmingham at The Lunar Society's recent Annual Lecture Delivered by Professor Ian Stewart, the Annual Lecture 'After Darwin's Watch' portrayed an engaging portrait of a world that continues to evolve in unpredictable ways. Stewart, along with Lunarman Jack Cohen and Terry Pratchett, was author of bestseller The Science of Discworld III: Darwin's Watch. But what does Darwin's theory of evolution actually mean for society today? As our planet teeters on the edge of yet another mass extinction event, Prof Stewart argued the case for evolution and a place for a reclusive God.

Darwin understood how the word changes us and today there is no doubt that we are changing this world. Climates are changing, nuclear threats are emerging and populations are growing.

But are we changing with the times? Are we becoming more effective at adapting, or just better at watching? Luckily, like Darwin, members of the modern Lunar Society ask many questions.

The society has a unique place in Birmingham in encouraging new ways of thinking and encouraging debate about the big issues of today.

If anything, the 2009 Darwin celebrations will hopefully introduce new audiences to modern science concepts that are changing the world around us. The society has it origins in the time of Erasmus Darwin, the 18th century physician and poet; and potter and social reformer Josiah Wedgwood.

They were, respectively, Charles' paternal and maternal grandfathers. Two hundred years after Darwin's birth, the evidence for natural selection has become insurmountable. Our ancestry can now be read not just from the growing fossil record, but from DNA sequences of hundreds of genomes. Professor Stewart, an eminent mathematician at the University of Warwick, said that we can see that our evolution is actually accelerating as our population grows.

However, the code for designing life is more complex than once thought.

More than a just collection of selfish genes, we are also defined by many more www.lunarsociety.org.uk For more information about the Lunar Society proteins, all organised into many types of cells. We can tinker with the development of an organism using new tools like RNA interference.

Many mysteries remain. The invention of DNA is still shrouded. Could our earliest origins be in self-replicating RNA or clay structures? This fundamental mystery cannot yet be fully explained by scientists, and could be used to argue the case for a reclusive God. …