The evolutionary emergence of purpose; Ursula Goodenough, PhD

A common misunderstanding of Darwinian evolution is that it renders existence meaningless and without purpose. In fact, the origin of life marks the origin of meaning and purpose: indeed, if they exist anywhere else in the universe, we will probably never know. This understanding, Dr. Goodenough will suggest, has wondrous ethical implications.

Ursula Goodenough, Ph.D., is Professor of Biology at Washington University. Before joining the staff of Washington University, she was Assistant and Associate Professor of Biology at Harvard from 1971-1978. Her primary teaching has been a cell biology course for undergraduate biology majors, but she also co-teaches a course, The Epic of Evolution, with a physicist and a geologist, for nonscience students. Her research has focused on the cell biology and (molecular) genetics of the sexual phase of the life cycle of a unicellular eukaryotic green algae and, more recently, on the evolution of the genes governing mating-related traits. Her laboratory has been supported by grants from NIH, NSP, and USDA and she has written three editions of a widely adopted textbook, Genetics. Dr. Goodenough has served in numerous capacities in national biomedical arenas, including review panels, editorial boards, and many positions in the American Society for Cell Biology.

Dr. Goodenough joined the Institute of Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS) in 1989. She has presented papers and seminars on Science and Religion in numerous areas and written a book on the subject, The Sacred Depths of Nature (Oxford University Press, 1998). She is a strong advocate of teaching the History of Nature in our schools.