Professor Richard Dawkins delivered this year's Open University lecture at the Natural History Museum 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: