Tuesday, June 20, 2006

On board the Queen Mary 2 I had the chance...

One of the great chances we had on the QM2 was to participate in a
series of Oxford extension lectures. (Got a certificate!)
I attended the lectures on evolution by Dr Robert Barton of Durham
Barton is definitely in the Dawkins camp, supporting the idea of gene
level selection. As he put it the logic is impeccable. I got the chance
to speak with him about his thoughts on species level selection (a la
Gould); in his opinion Gould managed several mental gymnastics to
rationalize certain thoughts. I had noticed that Gould's writings had
reflected a belief that natural selection could account for the most
wonderful adaptations and structures but somehow not the brain.
Barton's lectures covered natural selection in general, sexual
selection, evolution and culture and were informative for the informed
layman (me).
In our short conversation Barton admitted to me that the prospect of
doing evolution lectures on a ship half full of Americans made him a bit
nervous, what with all the ID and creationism and fundamentalism coming
out of the US. There were ultimately no problems from the audience. I'm
not sure exactly why, whether there were no creationists in the audience
or everyone just decided to keep decorum.

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