The Open University Annual Lecture

The Open University is having an open lecture on 17 March, and you’re all invited! The topic sounds historically, philosophically, and scientifically interesting:

Richard Dawkins suggests that there are four “bridges to evolutionary understanding” and illustrates this with four claimants to the discovery 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.

It’s all going to be streamed live on the web, if you are awake at 7:30 pm Natural History Museum time, which I won’t, or you can grab it from a webcast after the event.


  1. says

    …if you are awake at 7:30 pm Natural History Museum time, which I won’t (be?)

    Isn’t 7:30 p.m. GMT just 2:30 p.m. Central time?

    Dude, you work some interesting hours for a college professor…

  2. says

    If the fifth bridge to understanding evolution is digital then let’s provide the world with a testable exercise in this very arena. We are holding a digital “competition” to see who can put together the most aesthetically powerful blog post. The point is to see if we can evolve something both moving and beautiful containing as many forms of media possible tied together in a central theme of your choosing.

    Submissions will be selected and judged on the basis of four criteria:
    1. Clarity
    2. Originality
    3. Integration (at least three forms of media must be utilized, images, text, movies, audio, etc.)
    4. Power (the post’s ability to motivate readers to action).

    Enter here–>

  3. says

    Dawkins acknowledging somebody other than Charles Darwin? Shocking!

    Sorry, it’s just that after his Genius of Charles Darwin show, I have low expectations in that regard.

  4. Andysin says

    Frank Anderson you’re partly right. We changed our clocks earlier than they did though so will be 3:30pm on this side of the pond. Well for those who share my time zone ( I’m in Toronto)

  5. Art says

    My dial-up connection, another abandoned orphan in America’s infrastructure, doesn’t do streaming audio at all and downloading the files is painfully slow.

    Will there be a transcript? Please. Even one loosely paraphrased would be okay by me.

  6. says

    Andysin — I think I’m 100% right. It’s 3:30 PM for you, but 2:30 PM for the Central time zone, where PZ and I are both located.

    But yeah, no matter how you slice it, Mena, not a great time for Aussies, unless you like to rise early! Could be worse. You could be in Thailand, where it’s live in the middle of the night!

  7. says

    pfft, who needs to watch it live? I’ll get a good nights sleep and grab the webcast after the event. We live in a digital age peoples, being constrained by time is so 1991.

  8. tony says

    re: digital timeshifting and podcasted lectures!

    If only I had gone to college now I could actually have attended my morning* lectures!

    *and a fair number of early afternoon ones too!

  9. Tex says

    Open University is my all-time favorite institution. Whenever I see ‘Open’ listed on my school’s football schedule, my heart jumps and my sprit soars because I know we won’t lose that weekend.

  10. eddie says

    Apologies to Abbie, vhutchison et al but this is the real OU.

    My OU degree is in science but includes courses in maths, quantum mechanics, cosmology, astronomy and inorganic chemistry.

    Nearest I got to biology or evolution was in studying the x-ray crystalography that was used to find the structure of DNA. Franklin did the real hard work with a math slog without the aid of a computer.

  11. says

    I’m an Open University student. Nothing to do with Biology at all (I’m doing a Computing-related course) but I’ll certainly be tuning into this.

  12. says

    Another OU student – I majored in politics. I would recommend the OU to any reader. Its scientific hive-mind is a welcome relief to the woo and shoddy thinking creeping into the British education system.

  13. DaveH says

    Yay for the Open University! It truly is open, no qualifications required (except reading and writing English). Probably a bit expensive to study if you live outside Europe.

    Sorry, Kel @10, I don’t think that the podcast will be available for a couple of months :(

  14. dead yeti says

    Another OU student checking in (History BA). One of the few remaining great parts of our now failing education system (though that is in no way a criticism of our teachers – the vast majority of whom are wonderful dedicated and far too underpaid)

  15. David Waldock says

    Another OU student here – BSc (Hons) Life Sciences (I graduate in December, fingers crossed).

    Amazing organisation who seek to empower people through education: sometimes in quite subversive ways (they produce a lot of TV shows which are very mainstream!).

  16. Alan B says

    You guessed it – another OU student! There are a lot of them around.

    I am studying Earth Sciences with a (final year level) course on Evolution as one of the options (I passed last year). For those who do not know the OU it is a fully accredited university teaching by distance learning. It has a huge number of students in fulltime work, acting as fulltime carers, homemakers and even a few fulltime students who choose this route for a variety of reasons. It is well respected in the UK because of the demonstrated ability of students to balance (juggle) work, life, study, family all at the same time.

    To indicate the size, when I did the Geology module (S260) there were over 1000 home kits distributed with a set of rocks, a set of fossil replicas, a set of minerals and a petrological microscope and thin sections to all the rocks. At the time there were more geology students in one university (OU) than all the others in the UK put together.

  17. Alan B says

    I concur with everything said so far on the OU and plan to catch Dr Dawkin’s lecture. There has also been a series of programmes called “Jimmy Doherty in Darwin’s Garden” where the eponymous presenter repeats some of the experiments Darwin carried out in his study of natural selection. Much of the filming was done at Darwin’s home – Down House

    For more info see

    Also Andrew Marr has a series of programmes on Darwin’s Dangerous Idea:

    Both series were co-produced by the BBC and the Open University and are available for a limited time on BBC i-player.
    and browse to your hearts’ content!

    (Beware, the downloads are BIG files)

  18. Professor Milton Wainwright says

    Dawkins Discovers Matthew

    This is indeed a remarkable day for science,when Richard Dawkins accepts that people, other than Charles Darwin, originated the Theory of Natural Selection.I wonder if he will mention that both Darwin and Wallace admitted that Patrick Matthew and Charles Wells beat them to natural selection. Presumably, Professor Dawkins will now belatedly give some credit to Charles Wells. (Search Google for
    “wainwrightscience” for further details).
    Prof. Milton Wainwright,Dept.Molecualr Biology and Biotechnology,University of Sheffield,UK