Charles Darwin revolutionized Western thought by providing a plausible mechanism for the evolution of species. In this talk, I will discuss the radical shift in worldview that Darwin’s work represented, and I will describe five distinct theories that can be recognized within Darwinian evolution. I will then discuss the fates of these theories over the last 150 years and some of the ways in which they have been confounded and misunderstood — both within the scientific community and by the public at large. Finally, I will discuss the risks inherent in attempting to apply Darwinian theory to human behavior and society.
Dr. Ken Olsen is Assistant Professor of Biology, Washington University, and Research Associate, Missouri Botanical Garden. A native St. Louisan, he is a plant evolutionary biologist. In his lab, they address one of the major unanswered questions in evolutionary biology: what is the genetic basis of evolutionary change in plant species? One way that they look at this question is by studying the process of crop domestication. His research projects in this area have traced the geographical origins of several crops, including cassava (tapioca), rice, and coconut. They also study the process of adaptation in wild species; currently studying clover plants that have evolved to release cyanide as a protection against herbivores. Dr. Olsen’s funding sources include the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and the National Geographic Society.