TO CELEBRATE CHARLES DARWIN'S TWO HUNDRETH BIRTHDAY PARTY
OCTOBER 29, 2009, 7:00pm
Moot Courtroom, Room 200 A-B
Robson Hall, Faculty of Law
UNIVERSITY OF MANITOBA
TITLE: Darwin Backwards While Looking Forwards
I have always been fascinated by Charles Darwin and have made a hobby of collecting his books and other assorted paraphernalia. However, my personal high point occurred when Amanda, my Biologist wife, and I decided to retrace the route of the H.M.S. Beagle, albeit backwards. I will report on our sailing adventure on board S/V Darwin's Passage and describe what we learned about Darwin and his life during our seven-year voyage. Many of the places he explored have changed, yet others have not. His petrified forest at 5,000 feet has disappeared and the native Patagonians with whom he lived have been reduced to a single Yagan woman, Christina. Parts of our voyage were recorded in a touristic book entitled "Patagonia through the Eyes of Darwin/Patagonia con las ojas de Darwin."
I will end the lecture by discussing Charles Darwin and his religion. Deeply troubled by his conclusions concerning evolution and the apparent conflict with his Christian belief, a tormented Darwin reluctantly opted for the atheistic point of view. His decision is especially interesting considering current convergence of research on genetics, evolution and theology. I will discuss how feelings of spiritual elation and the consequential reinforcement of an individual's belief in god has a biochemical basis whose elucidation has given rise to the idea of GOD GENE(S). I will argue that during early human evolution, this spiritual capacity had a positive evolutionary, i.e., Darwinian advantage. As with many evolutionary characteristics, changes in circumstances can lead to the relaxation of selection and changes in which genes afford a selective advantage. How might the same genes that led to human spirituality, now, in an overcrowded world rich in weapons of mass destruction lead to our downfall? What might Darwin have thought?