The next commentator is of course Randal Keynes. If you have been aware of
Thank you. It’s wonderful to be able to speak here in the Royal Institution on this day, and I would like to take up the theme of the diversity of life. I use E.O. Wilson’s title, not biodiversity, the present phrase, or other phrases that
I want to touch first on The Origin of Species with that as a central idea, and the power of the idea to explain. I would just like to suggest that
To remind yourself of the power of the book just, I would suggest, read the last chapter, Recapitulation and Conclusion. For me it’s one of the most thrilling reads in the history of human thought, in the experience that one can have of human thought, and Darwin gallops through all those different areas and just says it can explain this, it can explain that, it can overcome this problem, it can overcome that, and at the end, this explanation that Darwin offers, it doesn’t have to be simplistic and reductive to do all of this explaining, it enriches our understanding and our wonder at the same time. These, I would suggest, are the qualities of E.O. Wilson’s writing in
There is, though, one feature in the vision that raises real problems for us today.
It was ’62.
’62. 1959 we were still happy. You see where I'm getting at.
2009, now can we still say that these endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful are being evolved? Is it not arguable that there are human impacts disrupting, damaging, degrading the ecosystems in which evolution takes place, that are having a terrible effect on that proliferation, that wealth, those adaptations and everything like that? It’s a very, very strange and difficult subject, but I would urge you to consider whether there hasn’t been a significant change in the balance of evolution through natural processes and sort of crashing around of humans with their impacts.
Randal, thank you very much for that moving little talk.