On the Origin of Species’ Anniversary

  • Dan Ardia, assistant professor of biology

Charles Darwin gave the world new lenses to view science.

“Darwin’s legacy was to give a framework for viewing organisms, and thus their biology from the gene level upward, as having evolved as a system of competing demands, tradeoffs and constraints,” said Dan Ardia, assistant professor of biology at Franklin & Marshall College.

Ardia will present the 2009 Darwin Day Lecture, titled “Organisms in Nature as a Central Focus in Biology: Remembering Darwin’s Legacy in a Time of Reductionism,” on Thursday, Feb. 12, at noon, in the Booth Ferris Room in the Steinman College Center.

The lecture, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, is free and open to the public.

“Perhaps Darwin’s great insight, similarity in traits due to common ancestry, is still essential to understanding nature, including human behavior, evolution and health,” Ardia said.

Darwin’s work had far-reaching implications for the fields of biology, psychology, philosophy, sociology and anthropology, Ardia explained.

“It demonstrated that species change over time; that shared traits including those shared between humans and other animals are derived from a common ancestor; and that a prime mechanism causing biological change over time is the survival and reproduction of individuals,” Ardia said.

Modern medicine, Ardia said, would benefit from a stronger foundation of evolutionary knowledge, especially in viewing the body as a tightly integrated, evolved set of competing physiological systems, and in considering questions such as disease evolution and the evolution of antibiotic resistance.

As part of the lecture Ardia will discuss his own research on the evolution of life histories in birds, in particular his study of swallows, to illustrate how the bird’s biology integrates the organism’s evolution, physiology, ecology and behavior.

“Looking solely at the biology of the swallow won’t explain why environmental variations in the bird’s behavior and migratory patterns, such as those occurring as a result of global warming, drive the evolution and conservation of the organism,” Ardia said.

Attendance to the lunchtime lecture is free, but you must R.S.V.P. by noon on Feb. 9 by calling 717-291-4133.

The talk is co-sponsored by the Center for Liberal Arts and Society and the Science, Technology and Society program.

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