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Darwin portrait by G. Richmond
Darwin portrait by G. Richmond

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Laurier biology celebrates Darwin Day with Charles Darwin Bicentennial Symposium

Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing

Feb 11/09

According to darwinday.org, there are 646 events scheduled in 42 countries to celebrate science and humanity on February 12, the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth.

Laurier’s biology department will be counted among the numbers when it hosts two renowned biologists for its Charles Darwin Bicentennial Symposium this Thursday and Friday.

The natural selection: professor Stephen Lougheed from Queen’s University and professor emeritus Jack Pasternak from the University of Waterloo.

Lougheed will deliver his lecture, Slow Biology: Voyaging & Research on the Evolution of Diversity on Thursday February 12 at 5:30 p.m.

“Dr. Lougheed’s work on frogs, snakes, lizards and birds continues the scientific legacy that Charles Darwin began as a student in his early twenties,” says Laurier associate biology professor Scott Ramsay, who organized Lougheed’s lecture. “His work is grounded in the tradition of the natural historian with the toolkit of the 21st century biologist.”

Pasternak’s lecture, The Making of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species: Who, How, What” will take place Friday February 13 at 2:30 p.m.

“Dr. Pasternak is a longtime resident of Kitchener-Waterloo and author of internationally acclaimed books on molecular genetics and molecular biotechnology,” says Laurier biology professor Lucy Lee, who organized Pasternak’s talk. “He is a most approachable and humble scientist” who is capable of bringing science to life.

Both Lee and Ramsay speak of the enduring influence of Darwin’s work.

“Although Darwin did not know about genes and mechanisms of inheritance, his book On the Origin of Species paved the way to understand the mechanism of evolution and natural selection,” says Lee.

According to Ramsay, even after 150 years Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection continues to be one of the most influential ideas in biology.

“Darwin himself was a keen observer, a careful thinker, and a master of seeking evidence from the work of others that might support or reject his ideas,” says Ramsay.

Darwinian evolution encompasses three premises: all living organisms share a common ancestry; the characteristics of populations change over time; and natural selection is the main force driving this change.

In Darwin’s own words from On the Origin of Species: “… every slight modification, which in the course of ages chanced to arise, and which in any way favoured the individuals of any of the species, by better adapting them to their altered conditions, would tend to be preserved; and natural selection would thus have free scope for the work of improvement.”

Both lectures will take place in Room N1044 in Laurier’s Science Building. They are free and open to the public.

Lori Chalmers Morrison
Public Affairs

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