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Dawkins on Darwin

2009 Open University Lecture

Richard Dawkins

The fifth bridge of evolutionary understanding is identified as modern genetics – which he terms digital Darwinism.

Professor Richard Dawkins delivered this year's Open University lecture at the Natural History M2 on Tuesday 17th March 2009. Dawkins’ presented to an invited audience and investigated if Darwin was the most revolutionary scientist ever, and examined the evolutionary theories of his contemporaries.

Dawkins suggests that there are four "bridges to evolutionary understanding" and illustrates this with four claimants to the evolution of natural selection: Edward Blyth, Patrick Matthew, Alfred Wallace and Charles Darwin. The fifth bridge of evolutionary understanding is identified as modern genetics – which he terms digital Darwinism.

The Open University annual lecture started as a joint project with BBC4 to ask distinguished academics from within or outside the university to give a lecture – much in the way other universities do. As we have the partnership with the BBC it was a way for the OU to develop a lecture series with impact. The first lecturer, Ian Kershaw, was suggested by the Arts Faculty and his lecture fitted well with the BBC history output for that year, the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.

As soon as the Darwin anniversary came into view Richard Dawkins was approached to give what would have been the 2009 annual lecture. The anniversary is a double one, 200 years since Darwin’s birth and 150 years since the publication of ‘On the origin of species’, so who better to give the OU annual lecture than the leading author on the subject of evolution and natural selection.

Watch the lecture online:

Richard Dawkins, Open University Lecture Solving the riddle
Random chance, design or natural selection? Dawkins explores how Darwin and his peers solved the riddle of life: Natural selection

Richard Dawkins, Open University Lecture Developing natural selection
Dawkins analyses the developing ideas of Darwin and the realisation of the tree of life: Struggle for existence

Richard Dawkins, Open University Lecture Darwin and Wallace
The ideas of Darwin and Wallace are compared: Differing theories?

Richard Dawkins, Open University Lecture The fifth bridge
Dawkin explores the idea’s of Darwin’s peers and discusses how close Darwin came to Mendelism: The digital bridge

Richard Dawkins, Open University Lecture Post lecture discussion
The panel answer audience questions and explore the science of being nice in a: post lecture discussion

Source:, The Open University, BBC,

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