Emory Report
September 22, 2008
Volume 61, Number 5



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22, 2008
‘Evolution Revolution’ looks back and ahead

By carol clark

Evolution is a fact of life, happening not just over millennia, but over decades as a booming human population, globalization and scientific breakthroughs drive change faster than ever.

An Emory public symposium, “Evolution Revolution: Science Changing Life,” will feature some of the world’s leading scientists, from Emory and beyond, to discuss how technology and growing knowledge of our origins may affect our future.

“Evolution Revolution” anticipates the 200th anniversary in 2009 of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of “On the Origin of Species.” The two-day event begins Thursday, Oct. 23 with free talks by biologist E. O. Wilson, known as “the father of biodiversity.” Wilson will speak informally on the topic of creativity at 3 p.m. in the Jones Room at Woodruff Library, then deliver the keynote address, “Darwin and the Future of Biology,” at 7 p.m. in Glenn auditorium.

New York Times columnist Olivia Judson, one of the preeminent science writers of our time, kicks off the events of Friday, Oct. 24, with a 9 a.m. talk at the Emory Conference Center. Panels of Emory and Georgia Tech faculty will then discuss how their research is helping to explain where we came from and where we may be going — including the potential for everything from renewable bio-energy sources to bioengineering advances that could transform health care. Registration is required for the Conference Center events. For details, visit www.emory.edu/evolution.

“Darwin’s theory of evolution has been called the greatest intellectual revolution,” says David Lynn, chair of chemistry and co-leader of Emory’s strategic initiative for Computational and Life Sciences, the main sponsor for the event. “We want to celebrate Darwin by looking forward, at how the theory of biological evolution continues to change our world view and the understanding of what the future may bring.”

The conference — which bridges the humanities, medicine, public health and the natural and social sciences, aims to communicate the potential of recent research, particularly at Emory — to improve our society.

“We may be reaching the threshold of a new era in the life sciences,” says Tom Jenkins, director of the Office of Academic and Strategic Partnerships, which is assisting with the event. From the search for the pre-biotic origins of life, through anthropology and non-human primate research, and the journey into bioengineering, Emory faculty are making major contributions.

“Emory recognizes that it has a responsibility not just to conduct pioneering research, but to share that research with the community,” Jenkins says. “This is a public discussion of cutting edge science that may be transforming our lives.”

“Technology is moving extremely fast,” Lynn adds. “We’re at a critical time now. Evolution is a complex, interwoven network. From renewable energy to health care, we need to put our heads together and think about how we’re going to evolve to meet the challenges and pressures we’re going to face.”

The strong educational component of the conference will include a workshop for high school teachers from throughout metro Atlanta, to discuss the difficulties and best practices for teaching evolution.