Is intelligent life trying to communicate with us from space? Professor Paul Davies explores the potential and limits of research into the origin and evolution of life, and the search for life beyond Earth. Has ET maybe visited our planet ages ago and left us a message? At the Australian National University, Paul Davies discussed his latest book The Eerie Silence: Are We Alone in the Universe?
Tagged with “evolution” (29)
Edward O. Wilson has revolutionized science and inspired the public more often than any other living biologist. Now he is blending his pioneer work on ants with a new perspective on human development to propose a radical reframing of how evolution works.
First the social insects ruled, from 60 million years ago. Then a species of social mammals took over, from 10 thousand years ago. Both sets of “eusocial” animals mastered the supremely delicate art of encouraging altruism, so that individuals in the groups would act as if they value the goal of the group over their own goals. They would specialize for the group and die for the group. In recent decades the idea of “kin selection” seemed to explain how such an astonishing phenomenon could evolve. Wilson replaces kin selection with “multi-level selection,” which incorporates both individual selection (long well understood) and group selection (long considered taboo). Every human and every human society has to learn how to manage adroitly the perpetual ambiguity and conflict between individual needs and group needs. What I need is never the same as what we need.
E. O. Wilson’s current book is The Social Conquest of Earth. His previous works include The Superorganism; The Future of Life; Consilience; Biophilia; Sociobiology; and The Insect Societies.
Biologist Mark Pagel shares an intriguing theory about why humans evolved our complex system of language. He suggests that language is a piece of "social technology" that allowed early human tribes to access a powerful new tool: cooperation.
Award-winning zoologist, science writer and author Dr Matt Ridley (UK) delivers the keynote address at the University of Melbourne’s Festival of Ideas 2011. In it he explains how genes, culture and technology evolve to drive human innovation. Ridley has published articles and reviews in The Times, Guardian, Times Literary Supplement, Literary Review, New Scientist, Prospect, New Statesman, Time, Newsweek, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Atlantic Monthly and The Economist, and written more than 10 books.
Presented by University of Melbourne, July 2011
rofessor Jean Aitchison delivers her second Reith Lecture from her series entitled ‘The Language Web’. She examines the origin of language in the human species and explains how a fresh look at the role of language has led to new ideas about how it started.
Paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey talks about what several generations of fossil finds reveal about human origins, and how modern Homo sapiens are threatening the future of life around the globe. Evolutionary biologist Quentin Atkinson joins to discuss the origins of language, which, like hominids, he’s traced to Africa.
Brain Science Podcast #30 is a discussion of Christine Kenneally’s book, The First Word: The Search for the Origin of Language.This episode concentrates on the emergence of the study of language evolution (evolutionary linguistics) from an area of area of inquiry that was banned in the 19th century to one that is flourishing and benefiting from new evidence from fields as diverse as genetics and studies in animal communication.
There are seven species of great ape on the planet. How did the weakest ape come out on top?
With breathtaking scope and depth, archaeologist and prehistorian Timothy Taylor presents a new and much-needed theory of technology. It not only turns Darwinian theory on its head, but also argues that (alongside physics and biology) it is the human relationship with artifice that has as powerfully framed and formed human evolution.
Taylor compellingly displays how from the moment this weak bi-pedal ape chipped its first stone and slayed the stronger mega-fauna, the process of ‘natural selection’ and ‘survival of the fittest’ was undermined. From birth to death, from fire, tools, weapons, gifts and image making to screen technologies, it is our innovations that have allowed us to nurture immature offspring, increase protein intake, prioritise innovation, confer strength, define culture and spread ideas.
Taylor goes even further, and asserts not only that technology evolved us, but that it is driven by its own unfolding logic. That the entire system of technological inertia is by now so immense that the sorts of choices left for us to make in the future are essentially trivial.
Join Timothy Taylor at the RSA as he traces our relationship with artefact and technology, from the Venus of Willendorf to Anthony Gormley, referencing a huge range of culture and scholarship, casting a critical and surprising light on what is currently happening to our bodies and minds - why they are progressively and inevitably weakening, and why it may not ultimately matter.
Speaker: Dr Timothy Taylor, reader in archaeology, University of Bradford, editor-in-chief, Journal of World Prehistory and author of The Artificial Ape (Palgrave Macmillan, 9 September 2010)
Cosmologist Martin Rees posits the question: What if human success on Earth determines life’s success in the universe? This program was recorded in collaboration with the Long Now Foundation, on August 2, 2010.
This program features visual aids. A complete video version is available at: http://fora.tv/2010/08/02/Martin_Rees_Lifes_Future_in_the_Cosmos
President of the Royal Society, England’s Astronomer Royal, Lord Martin Rees brings a lifetime of cosmological inquiry to a crucial question: What if human success on Earth determines life’s success in the universe?
He thinks that civilization’s chances of getting out of this century intact are about 50-50. He is hopeful that extraterrestrial life already exists, but there’s no sign of it yet. But even if we are now alone, he notes that we may not even be the halfway stage of evolution.
There is huge scope for post-human evolution, so that "it will not be humans who watch the sun’s demise, 6 billion years from now. Any creatures that then exist will be as different from us as we are from bacteria or amoebae."
Appropriately, Rees’s Long Now talk was at the Chabot Space and Science Center in the hills above Oakland, in the planetarium.
Martin Rees is Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics and Master of Trinity College at the University of Cambridge. He holds the honorary title of Astronomer Royal and also Visiting Professor at Imperial College London and at Leicester University.
After studying at the University of Cambridge, he held post-doctoral positions in the UK and the USA, before becoming a professor at Sussex University. In 1973, he became a fellow of King’s College and Plumian Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at Cambridge (continuing in the latter post until 1991) and served for ten years as director of Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy. From 1992 to 2003 he was a Royal Society Research Professor.
Stewart Brand is a co-founder and managing director of Global Business Network, founded and runs the GBN Book Club, and is the president of The Long Now Foundation.
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