OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Scientist to discuss contingency in evolutionary biology

04/02/2009

CORVALLIS, Ore. – John Beatty of the University of British Columbia, will present a series of three lectures at Oregon State University April 14, 16, and 17 on “Evolutionary Contingency and Its Broader Significance, from Charles Darwin to Stephen Jay Gould.”

In his 1989 book, “Wonderful Life,” Stephen Jay Gould posed the following thought experiment: If we could rewind the tape of life back to some point in the past, and then push “play,” would things turn out as before? Gould argued that we would get a different outcome every time. Beatty’s lectures will address the idea of “evolutionary contingency,” from Darwin to Gould (and beyond), and also some of the scientific, theological, and moral issues that have been raised in connection with this unpredictability.

Beatty teaches history and philosophy of science, and social and political philosophy at the UBC, which is located in Vancouver. His research focuses on the theoretical foundations, methodology, history and socio-political dimensions of genetics and evolutionary biology. He is a coauthor of “The Empire of Chance: How Probability Changed Science and Everyday Life” (Cambridge University Press, 1990) and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The schedule of lectures is:

Tuesday, April 14
Charles Darwin: “The Details Left to Chance”
Memorial Union, Journey Room, 4 p.m.

Thursday, April 16
The Water-Babies (1862): An Evolutionary Parable
Memorial Union, Journey Room, 4:00 p.m.

Friday, April 17, 2009
Stephen Jay Gould: “Replaying Life’s Tape”
Memorial Union, Journey Room, noon

Beatty’s lectures on “Evolutionary Contingency and Its Broader Significance, from Charles Darwin to Stephen Jay Gould” will be published in the spring of 2010 by the OSU Press as the third volume in the Horning Visiting Scholars Publication Series.

For more information, contact the History Department at 541-737-8560 or visit http://oregonstate.edu/cla/history/lectures/