On Darwin, February 11 2009

Darwin the Computer Scientist
Paul Grouchy (Institute for Aerospace Studies)

With the recent explosion in computational power, scientists are now able to apply evolutionary concepts in ways that Darwin himself could never have dreamed of.? This presentation will provide an overview of how computer scientists are using artificial evolution to solve a wide variety of problems and will suggest how the natural sciences might benefit from examining the behaviour of these evolutionary algorithms.

Old and Useless Darwin
Simon Reader (English)

Darwin left behind a jumble of notes that he labeled “Old and Useless.” This presentation will introduce the Darwinian concept of the useless, a term employed to define those parts of life that neither sustain nor inhibit survival. It will then analogize this concept to explore the charm and appeal that Darwin’s discarded writings have for the student of Victorian aesthetics.

Misleading Darwin
Caitlin Dmitriew (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology)

Darwinian references in the popular media are often misleading. Expressions such as “survival of the fittest” are often appropriated for political ends and used in a pejorative sense. For example, it has been implied that natural selection leads inevitably to selfish behaviour, and that human societies can thrive only by fighting our baser instincts. I will discuss how such uses of Darwinian terminology are based on an erroneous understanding of how natural selection operates. In fact, Darwinian (evolutionary) processes can easily be shown to favour cooperation and sociality.

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