There was a full house at the Institute of Education as close to 1,000 people turned out to hear award-winning anthropologist Dr Eugenie Scott deliver the 2015 Darwin Day Lecture on the subject of ‘What would Darwin say to today’s creationists?’, hosted by the British Humanist Association (BHA). As in previous years, the lecture was chaired by BHA Patron Professor Richard Dawkins.
After being introduced by Richard Dawkins as a personal hero and ‘a hero to all who love science and reason,’ Eugenie Scott focused her lecture on creationist objections to Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, systematically showing in each case where these were based on misunderstandings of science, wishful thinking, or attempts to deceive.
As Dr Scott’s talk went on, she moved to explaining why Darwin would be delighted to discover the great wealth of support for evolution that exists today. For example, she told her audience how Mendelian genetics has since solved the puzzle of inheritance and provided an explanation for how more evolutionarily fit traits come to thrive and dominate in a given gene pool. Continental drift, equally, has solved the mystery of biodiversity – explaining why for example Marsupials are found in faraway places like Australia and South America. As it stands today, evolution is one of the best-supported theories in all of science, and the only viable explanation for the diversity of life on Earth.
After a spirited and entertaining lecture delivered with humour throughout, Dr Scott concluded with a simple slide summarising how Darwin would answer the central question of her talk. Showing a photograph of Darwin with a furrowed brow, the response read: ‘Haven’t you been paying attention the last 155 years?’
Prior to the lecture, attendees were also treated to to the premiere of a new musical piece from the British Humanist Choir, ‘From So Simple,’ a haunting and uplifting arrangement of the final lines from Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, composed by Ian Assersohn. A full video of Dr Scott’s lecture will be made available through the BHA’s YouTube channel in the near future.
The Darwin Day Lecture is part of the BHA’s annual lecture programme, which also includes the Voltaire, Holyoake, Shelley, and Bentham lectures.
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.