Happy Birthday, Evolution!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Richard Dawkins, biologist, "professor of the Public Understanding of Science" at Oxford University author of many books on science, most recently, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, talks about Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, which was published on 24 November 1859.


Richard Dawkins

Comments [38]

Ed from Larchmont, NY

Of course we celebrate Charles Darwin, one of the greatest scientists. Evolution was a speculation and a possibility and he proved it was a mechanism for the changes in living beings. He gave us an understanding of the majestic age of our world. But his atheism wasn't a part of his science, nor a result of it. His father and grandfather were atheists, and he was angry at God over the death of his daughter (understandably). So he became an atheist. Why is ... what's his name ... Dawkins talking about his atheism, - that's not science, that's a philosophy.

Dec. 11 2009 10:23 AM

Well if "the present is the key to the past" shouldn't we see somethikng like that???

Nov. 29 2009 08:30 PM

HG: It doesn't. That's a different topic. Evolution is specifically the change in living organisms over time through random mutation and natural selection. What you're talking about is abiogenesis and, while many aspects of it have been studied, how it happened exactly is still a mystery and may remain that way.

Nov. 29 2009 10:02 AM

Just out of curiosity (which maybe should be gone by now since curiosity killed the cat) how does evolution explain spontaneous generation (inanimate matter becomes a living organism)?? Seeing as evolution had to start somewhere.

Nov. 25 2009 08:20 PM
wkgreen from Brooklyn

If something is rare enough to occur once a year then basic math says that in a billion years it will happen a billion times. Evolution absolutely does explain "language, sex, procreation, (and) our self awareness" as well as many other things like why we walk upright and eat an omnivorous diet. I'm sure evolution explains religion or why some of us just don't get evolution no matter the evidence. If you think that the fossil record is not replete with evidence of evolution you've obviously never looked at the fossil exhibit at any good natural history museum. But the fact is that something does not have to jive with your or my anyone's world view to be true. And it has nothing to do with 'good' and 'evil' it just IS.

At some point this whole argument becomes a silly waste of time and our time in this life is too short. Since it's the only life I'm likely to have I'll wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

Nov. 25 2009 06:20 PM
John Modzel from North Babylon, Long Island

I do appreciate your zeal but You swear what? you seem to be getting derogatory.... what is a creationist WING NUT? Disagreements should be with respect. Why did you add the ISM to creation? Why do you turn the discussion to an attack at a person's character? Such action is an indication of one who has lost the argument. We all grow up with misconceptions. Evolution is one of them. The fossil record is deplete of any transitional creatures. Punctuated equilibrium is the atheist's way of saying 'miracle' and not be liable for suggesting something that is unexplainable. There are so many accomplished and gifted scientists out there who do not see evolution in the evidence.Many of our earliest ground breaking scientists were creationists. May God open your eyes to the truth about Scripture(The Bible)and the Savior Jesus Christ.

Nov. 25 2009 04:15 PM
R.Xavier from Toronto

If one more creationist wing-nut puts this whole thing down to semantic argument of theory vs. fact ... I swear!!! Folks, a scientific theory is a proponderance of facts supporting a conclusion - in this case evolution by natural selection.

So, for the upteenth time, a theory is not only one fact but usually many, many, MANY facts. Creationism is **not** a theory because it has NO BASIS in actual FACTS.

As for a Dawkins vs. Behe debate it won't happen because most reputable scientists, including Dawkins, have agreed that even discussing the facts of evolution vs. the superstitious tripe of creationist/I.D. imparts credibility on the latter notion itself. There is no debate to be had. Creationism and/or intelligent design deserve no standing as even a remotely plausible theory - so what would there be to talk about or debate?

Nov. 25 2009 02:55 PM
John Modzel from North Babylon, Long Island

If mutations are rare this means it is rare even in a million years or a billion years. RARE doesn't become unrare with time.In fact pure mathematics will support such speculation. And if they are rare than macroevolution is a myth. Evolution cannot and will never be able to explain Language, sex, procreation, our self awareness, or the fact that you and I can agree not only to disagree about these matters but that there are clearly things that are good(virtuos) and bad(evil). It's not just a poor choice to kill my neighbor because I dont like his music, it is in fact BAD (evil). Evolution provides the platform for such standards to be relative. Sounds like a communistic idea doesn't it?

Nov. 25 2009 02:37 PM


Time doesn't help if your DNA is being slowly damaged. Here is part of an article on mutations, if you want the whole thing let me know.

Mutations rapidly destroy

Within neo-Darwinian theory, natural selection is supposed to be the guardian of our genomes because it weeds out unwanted deleterious mutations and favours beneficial ones. Not so, according to genetics expert Professor John Sanford.18 Natural selection can only weed out mutations that have a significant negative effect upon fitness (number of offspring produced). But such ‘fitness’ is affected by a huge variety of factors, and the vast majority of mutations have too small an effect for natural selection to be able to detect and remove them.

Furthermore, if the average mutation rate per person per generation is around 1 or more, then everyone is a mutant and no amount of selection can stop degeneration of the whole population. As it turns out, the mutation rate in the human population is very much greater than 1. Sanford estimates at least 100, probably about 300, and possibly more.

If you wouldn't mind providing some"debunking" evidence I will gladly do my best to counter it :-)

Nov. 25 2009 02:29 PM
wkgreen from Brooklyn


Beneficial mutations are indeed rare, and genetic scientists today recognize that the vast majority of DNA that any individual carries is useless junk. But then no one has ever said that evolution was efficient or neat. It most certainly is not! But it exists at a molecular level and it has lots of time on it's side, billions of years, in fact.

Creation theory, as you call it, has been fairly well debunked almost unanimously in the scientific community. I might agree with you that there is a "leap of faith" in any theory, but gravity (or should I say its theory...) holds me down.

Nov. 25 2009 11:11 AM


"mutation is not a "loss of dna" it is a "randomly derived change to the nucleotide sequence "

Which ends up in corrupted or missing parts of the nucleotide sequence (If not lost than so badly messed up that it's no longer useful) and if we had been passing those on for millions of years there would so many mistakes that we wouldn't be able to survive. Beneficial mutations are rare and still don't add new genetic information so if we did evolve from some single cell organism we should be seeing a lot more "good" mutations and some added genetic information to keep up with the losses /corrupted data.

Jon P.

The creation theory can and has been backed up by many scientific facts. As with any theory there is a leap of faith at some point.

As to the threats I do not think that is the right way to go about things but if you believe that we came from cosmic goo that randomly formed who decides what's right or wrong?

Nov. 24 2009 06:04 PM
Jon P. from The Garden State

What part of “theory” do you creationists not understand? Were you all absent that day in 7th grade science class? It’s a theory, not fact. Its literary challenged thousands of times a day all around the world. There are parts of it that have been proven wrong and other parts that will be proven wrong. Yet as a whole, the evolution theory still holds up quite well. That’s a scientific theory. Creationism is an opinion and will never be excepted as a scientific theory. “If we don’t have an answer for something then a “creator of sorts” must have made it”. That’s not scientific theory, that’s giving up and saying the boogie man must have done it.

The highest constitutional court in Pennsylvania ruled creationism is not only not science but not even close to being a science theory. The court also ruled that the creationism movement is a fraud and nothing more then a front trying to get religion in the class room by calling it science. The judge that ruled on this case is a conservative and was appointed by Bush Junior. Since his ruling, both he and his family have been threatened numerous times. Go figure…..

Nov. 24 2009 03:38 PM
hjs from 11211

{24] HG

mutation is not a "loss of dna" it is a "randomly derived change to the nucleotide sequence "

Nov. 24 2009 03:09 PM
John Modzel from North Babylon, Long Island

It is clear either Mr Dawkins didn't read 'The origin of Species' or he is purposely hiding the fact Darwin DID IN FACT REFER TO RACES AS WHAT WE REFER TO THEM EVEN TODAY. He said the african americans, and the aborygynes and asian RACES were not as EVOLVED as CAUCASION people. Do we hear this in the colleges? or even from MR. Dawkins? Instaed he spoke in circles avoiding the truth. Evolution is not fact but merely a theory at best, at worst mythology.

Nov. 24 2009 02:43 PM


mutation and isolation still = loss of DNA + several million years = nothing left

Nov. 24 2009 01:30 PM
Ed Helmrich from Larchmont, NY

Darwin reminds me of Marx, both claimed to have found the key to all things. (If Darwin didn't claim it, his followers now do.) And they found important ideas, but not the key to all things.

Nov. 24 2009 01:10 PM
hjs from 11211

what? mutations are not only losses. mutation and isolation = new species

Nov. 24 2009 12:52 PM

In order for evolution to work information has to be added to the DNA or else the organism doesn't progress. So far we still haven't seen any information been added to the DNA only the loss of it especially with mutations. No new information means no new creatures which means we shouldn't be here (well if you think you came from a monkey that is). #11 some thoughts for you :)

Nov. 24 2009 12:46 PM
Ed Helmrich from Larchmont, NY

How about the Nazi literature which claimed that what they were doing was 'applied biology', i.e. using the greater and lesser races theory found in Darwin.

Nov. 24 2009 11:41 AM
Connie from NJ

'Evolutionary bias' is the best explanation I've heard yet for why human beings have such high self-regard as a species.

Nov. 24 2009 11:31 AM
Chem from New Brunswick, NJ

For the caller Celeste, I highly recommend the book "The Ape and the Sushi Master" by Franz De Waal for your animal ethics class.

Nov. 24 2009 11:29 AM
uos from queens

great segment, thanks for this

Nov. 24 2009 11:28 AM
Ed Helmrich from Larchmont, NY

To say that religion evolved from advantages, and not from God, is to turn it all updside-down. Oh the worshippers of evolution.

Nov. 24 2009 11:27 AM
Ed Helmrich from Larchmont, NY

I celebrate evolution, but not Darwinism. Note that Wallace criticized Darwin because he didn't think that evolution accounted for all that Darwin claimed.

Nov. 24 2009 11:25 AM
roanne from tribeca

how do you know we haven't been contacted by some life form elsewhere? dogs hear sounds we can't, and radio waves have only recently (compared to history) been discovered. maybe there's some other way and we're being contacted now only we haven't yet discovered how...

Nov. 24 2009 11:24 AM
Gerry G from Easton, PA


Those islands of intelligent life could also be spread out across billions of years. Tough to find in the space-time continuum.

Gerry, Easton PA

Nov. 24 2009 11:22 AM
John eiche from Queens

What major issues of evolutioon remain to be resolved?

Nov. 24 2009 11:22 AM
mozo from nyc

#8 -- too funny!

On the other hand, maybe his choice of books will... evolve in time?

Wow, that was bad.

Come on, creationists and intelligent design fans out there -- your "thoughts" on this?

Nov. 24 2009 11:20 AM
Charlie from Bronx

We heard on yesterday's show, in the context of depression and ADD, that deleterious genes have to also have a beneficial role in order to survive in the population. Would you give some examples of this, and conjecture of the beneficial aspects of type one diabetes in humans?

Nov. 24 2009 11:16 AM
John Donich from Brooklyn

How has your (Dawkins) view of evolution changed over your career? Speak especially to the contributions from paleontology and molecular biology and what each tells us about evolution.

Nov. 24 2009 11:16 AM
John from Bklyn

I bet "On the Origin of Species" won't be in the Bush Library!

Nov. 24 2009 11:16 AM
Andrew B. from New York City

I have all of Professor Darwin's books and enjoy them immensely.

I also have several books by Michael Behe, the intelligent design advocate, who teaches biochemistry at Lehigh University.

Why not have a debate between the two for the benefit of listeners who want an intellectual challenge instead of simply trying to pick a side in advance and cheerlead for one side or the other?

Nov. 24 2009 11:15 AM
Nick from NYC

Happy Bday Darwin!

Question for your guest:

Since in the family tree, ancient humans also had other branches that died out, can your guest comment on whether current humans might split into different branches, and if so, in what time frame?

Science has shown that very rapid genetic modifications can occur (see Russian silver fox studies) - is this possible for humans?

Nov. 24 2009 11:15 AM
destiny from harlem

brian, what's with the phrases today-- first "pie in the sky" now "bolt from the blue"? please stop, it's making your guests respond with equally annoying statements (e.g. feathers in the wind).

Nov. 24 2009 11:15 AM
hjs from 11211

I read on the internet that first humans hatched from eggs laid by the easter bunny.


evolution seems to be proved by news from wall st. the rich get richer and the poor can't even get modern healthcare

Nov. 24 2009 11:12 AM
mozo from nyc

Woo-hoo! Par-tay!!

Especially for me. I'm in Central Florida right now and I'm not exactly surrounded by comparative biologists. I guess I'll hang with the ex-pat Brits down here.

Nov. 24 2009 11:10 AM
Ed Helmrich from Larchmont, NY

The evidence for evolution is indeed overwhelming, but the metaphysics of Darwinian evolution - atheistic, materialistic, even racist - is not acceptable, and not necessary to the mechanism of evolution at all.

Nov. 24 2009 08:40 AM
Dennis from New York

The evidence supporting evolutionary theory is overwhelming. Has there been more progress in theorizing the initial process of life formation and evolution from the very first DNA molecules?

Nov. 24 2009 05:10 AM

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