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University of Missouri Faculty to Host "Darwin's Ongoing Revolution: Evolutionary Thought in Emerging Fields"

Scholarly symposium will examine how Darwin's work continues to reshape existing fields of study

Feb. 26, 2009

Story Contact:  Christian Basi, (573) 882-4430,

COLUMBIA, Mo. - When Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, he challenged traditional perspectives on the order of nature and the place of humans in it. A century and a half later, Darwin’s theory is still reshaping the traditional boundaries of biological sciences, social sciences and humanities. To commemorate the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species, and in honor of Darwin’s 200th birthday, faculty from the University of Missouri’s Life Sciences & Society Program will host a scholarly symposium, “Darwin’s Ongoing Revolution: Evolutionary Thought in Emerging Fields.” 

“Because evolution is the process that resulted in human beings, researchers are exploring the relevance of that process to an ever-increasing range of human activities and experiences,” said Stefani  Engelstein, associate professor of German studies and the chair of the symposium steering committee.  “The symposium will provide a rare opportunity for scholars from a variety of fields to come together and share their current research with an interested public.”

The 5th Annual Life Sciences & Society Symposium will be held March 13-15 at the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center. The symposium is part of a month-long celebration of Darwin’s birthday and his publication. The celebration includes the following events:

• Several academic workshops and seven internationally renowned speakers who represent the sciences, social sciences and humanities. (See attached schedule.)

• An exhibit at the Ellis Library Colonnade, “150 Years of the Origin of Species: The Historical Journey from Specimens to Species to Genes,” on the MU campus from March 3-31. The exhibition will trace the concept of biological variation from the Renaissance through the 20th Century using rare and historical books and illustrations. Andre Ariew, associate professor of philosophy, will open the exhibit with a lecture, "Darwinism New and Old" at 1 p.m., March 5.

• A film series at Ragtag Cinema on March 4 and March 11. On March 11, director Randy Olson will present his film “Flock of Dodos: the Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus.” The film draws on Olson’s background in evolutionary biology and his Kansas upbringing amidst the controversy over the theory of evolution in his home state.  The following day, Olson will present, “Don’t Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style.” On March 4, the film “Evolution” will be shown.

• A film competition called “The Great Global Warming Comedy Film Contest.” Students are encouraged to create a 60-second video about global warming. The winning videos will be shown at the Ragtag film showing and the top three films from MU will compete against other university winners for a grand prize. Deadline for submissions is March 6.

• A juried art show inspired by evolution, "Natural Selection,” will be shown at Perlow Stevens Gallery in downtown Columbia.

“While scientists see evolution as a fundamental organizing principle of life on earth, many of the rest of us wonder why we should care about Darwin’s ideas,” said Jack Schultz, director of the Bond Life Sciences Center. “We have invited some of the world’s top evolutionary thinkers to focus discussion on what those ideas mean to us now. This is a wonderful opportunity for the university and Columbia community to learn and exchange ideas.”

“What’s so interesting about Darwin’s theory is the fact that it still has the power to jolt fields in new directions and is also creating new interdisciplinary fields,” Engelstein said. “We are very excited about bringing a group of renowned scholars to campus who are leading these developments and who will illustrate the fascinating current shapes of research in and about evolution."

For free registration or for more information, visit For more information regarding the short film competition, email  See complete schedule of events below.

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Schedule of Events
Darwin's Ongoing Revolution:
Evolutionary Thought in Emerging Fields

Wednesday, March 11

7 p.m.  Ragtag Cinema
Film showing: “Flock of the Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus”
A discussion with the director, Randy Olson, will follow.

Thursday, March 12

10 a.m.  Monsanto Auditorium on the MU campus
Lecture: “Don’t Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style”
Randy Olson, documentary filmmaker

7 p.m. Jesse Wrench Auditorium in Memorial Union on the MU Campus
Film showing: “SIZZLE: A Global Warming Comedy”

Saturday, March 14
*All events will be held at the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center on the MU campus.

9-9:50 a.m.
Is Darwinism Past its 'Sell By' Date?

Michael Ruse, professor of philosophy of biology at Florida State University

10:30-11:20 a.m.
Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives

David Sloan Wilson, professor of biology at Binghamton University

11:30am-12:20 p.m.
The Uses of Extinction

Gillian Beer, professor of literature & science at Cambridge University

2-2:50 p.m.
Creation, Evolution, and the Boundaries of Science and Religion

Ron Numbers, cultural historian at the University of Wisconsin

3:30-5 p.m.
Panel Discussion
Michael Ruse, David Sloan Wilson, Ron Numbers and Gillian Beer

Sunday, March 15

8:30 – 9:20 a.m.
Why Didn't Natural Selection Make Humans Healthier and Nicer?
Randolph Nesse, professor of evolutionary medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School

9:30 – 10:20 a.m.
Darwin and the Evolution of Psychology
Dave Geary, professor of evolutionary psychology at MU

10:20 – 10:30 a.m.
Book signing

10:45 – 11:35 a.m.
The Human Race: The Quest to Find Our Earliest Ancestors
Ann Gibbons, journalist and author of The First Human

11:45 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Panel Discussion with Randolph Nesse, Ann Gibbons and Dave Geary