The hottest cultural controversy of 2005 was the Intelligent Design challenge to the theory of evolution, being played out in classrooms and courtrooms across America. The crux of the argument made by proponents of Intelligent Design is that the theory of evolution is in serious trouble. They claim that the evidence for evolution is weak, the gaps in the theory are huge, and that these flaws should be taught to students. In this brilliant synthesis of scientific data and theory, Occidental College geologist, paleontologist, and evolutionary theorist Dr. Donald Prothero will present the best evidence we have that evolution happened, why Darwins theory still matters, and what the real controversies are in evolutionary biology.
Dr. Donald Prothero teaches Physical and Historical Geology, Sedimentary Geology, and Paleontology. His specialties are mammalian paleontology and magnetic stratigraphy of the Cenozoic. His current research focuses on the dating of the climatic changes that occurred between 30 and 40 million years ago, using the technique of magnetic stratigraphy. He is the author of “Evolution of the Earth,” “Bringing Fossils to Life,” “After the Dinosaurs,” “Horns, Tusks, and Flippers: The Evolution of Hoofed Mammals,” and the textbook “Sedimentary Geology.”
If you’ve got around twenty hours of free time, you might enjoy this YouTube playlist of 10 lectures from Stanford University on Charles Darwin’s legacy (Stanford Continuing Studies course). Each video is around two hours and features an introduction, a presentation/lecture, and concludes with a panel discussion and a Q&A. Instead of using the playlist above, you can access each individual lecture below:
- Professor William Durham provides an overview of the course; Professor Robert Siegel touches upon Darwin’s Own Evolution; Professor Durham returns for a talk on Darwin’s Data.
- Dr. Eugenie Scott explores the evolution vs. creationism debate and provides an argument for evolution.
- Dr. Janet Browne presents a biography on Charles Darwin and explores Darwin’s Origin of Species.
- Dr. Daniel Dennett presents the philosophical importance of Darwin’s theory of evolution.
- Peter and Rosemary Grant discuss how and why species multiply.
- Dr. Niles Eldredge discusses Darwin’s life and work.
- Professor Melissa Brown speaks about the history and consequences of social Darwinism, and offers insight into new ways of thinking about social evolution.
- Dr. Paul Ewald speaks about how several pathogenic viruses have evolved over time to break down the cell’s barriers to several types of cancer. He suggests that further research will aid in the discovery of additional viruses linked to the causation of cancer.
- Dr. Russell Fernald discusses how social behavior changes the brains of fish, animals, and humans to adapt to situations typically involving mating behaviors.
- Dr. George Levine discusses through analysis of Darwin’s literary works, ways of seeing and being enchanted by the world as well as the poetic eloquence of Darwin’s prose.
It’s a lot to view, but worth the effort!