Scholars talk about implications of Darwin’s theories on their disciplines

 Article written by Andre Encarnacion, UP Newsletter
Volume xxxi   Number 01    2010-01-01

 
Charles Darwin
The UP Diliman (UPD) College of Science (CS) and the UPD School of Economics (SE) jointly sponsored the symposium “The Impact of Darwin on Science and Society” held on December 14, 2009 at the CS auditorium.  Four distinguished speakers from UPD talked about the implications of Darwin’s research on their respective fields:  Dr. Perry Ong of the Institute of Biology, Dr. Maria Serena Diokno of the Department of History, Dr. Raul Fabella of the School of Economics, and Dr. Michael Tan of the Department of Anthropology. 

In his opening remarks SE Dean Emmanuel de Dios reminded those in attendance of how controversies surrounding Darwin’s theories resulted in “bad education, bad appreciation, and bad conscience.” These in turn affect how Darwin is taught and understood today. He emphasized Darwin’s contributions by mentioning that “the Darwinian revolution talks about the human scale and frame” and how this allows us to “hold up a mirror to ourselves.”

Dr. Ong, in his lecture “Evolution Works: Going Full Circle with Darwin’s Finches,” mapped the history of the theory of evolution from Darwin’s journey on the Beagle to subsequent developments  in Gregor Mendel’s genetics, and Watson and Crick’s discovery of the double helix. He noted that in Darwin’s study of Galapagos finches, evolution in action was evidenced in a particular kind of finch which eventually developed a wide variety of beak shapes because of their diets.

Dr. Diokno discussed the difficulties of teaching Darwin in Philippine schools in her paper “Teaching Darwin: How History Treats Science.” She bemoaned the flimsy and biased treatment of science in Philippine textbooks, and suggested that scientists as well as historians should take steps to communicate better and “eradicate the power of misrepresentation.”

Dr. Fabella discussed how the theory of evolution has influenced economics in “Darwin, Natural Selection and the Turmoil in Economics.” He explained how this influence has implications on economic strategies used in a given community. 

Dr. Tan, in his lecture“Evolving Nature, Evolving Minds, Evolving Cultures,” pointed to debates in history between men of science and religion. He stressed however that the lines drawn between the two have not always been clear as science developed not only in spite of religion but also alongside it. Although he stressed the conflicts between scientific/Darwinian and religious/creationist views on the origins of life, he also highlighted key religious figures who have championed science in the past. Tan admitted that conflicts continue to exist between hardliners on both sides, but encouraged the audience to “have the courage to use your own understanding.”

Dr. Fidel Nemenzo of the CS Science and Society Program concluded the program by summing up highlights of each lecture. He saw how there was still “much room for dialogue” left. Dr. Carlos Primo David of the National Institute of Geological Sciences was moderator of the symposium which marked the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

Original Story:
http://up.edu.ph/upnewsletter.php?issue=61&i=1089
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