Selected Lectures and Debates

Lecture on Physiology and Evolution given at an international Congress in Suzhou, China, in 2012. This was the first videoed lecture at which Denis Noble outlined his reasons and evidence for dissenting from the neo-Darwinist Modern Synthesis. The lecture was then published as an article. The recording of the lecture has also appeared on many other websites and may now have been viewed about 100,000 times.

Lecture given at The Physiological Society in London in November 2016 on the publication of Dance to the Tune of Life. That is the main title of the lecture. The subtitle is “A physiologist enters the lions’ den of evolutionary biology.”

The lecture is similar to that delivered to The Royal Society earlier in November at the discussion meeting on New Trends in Evolutionary Biology. The ending of the lecture answers some of the on-line critics, some of who tried to stop the Royal Society meeting.

Was the watchmaker blind?

Lecture on Dance to the Tune of Life to the Oxford Biochemistry Society on why organisms are active in determining their genetic changes. Denis Noble was introduced as the founder of systems biology so he begins by saying that there many such founders, some in the audience.

The lecture explains that stochasticity necessarily exists together with directed change. Chance at the molecular level does not mean that the outcome is chance.

The lecture also highlights the work of Barbara McClintock and James Shapiro in showing directed genome change in plants and bacteria.

The lecture is followed by fascinating discussion (in many ways the most important part of the recording) with faculty and students, led by the President of the student society who begins the discussion with a series of challenging questions. The question at what level events are stochastic is a key issue.

In many ways, the discussion is the richest part of this recording. There is a challenge at 44 minutes from a student raising the question why the mechanism of inheritance should matter to evolutionary biology. The answer is that the concept of a “gene” used in standard evolutionary biology was not originally a DNA sequence. It was anything that causes inheritance. Such a “gene” is necessarily the cause of the phenotype, whereas DNA sequences need to be shown to be a cause. The discussion ends with whether selfishness is a property of genes or of organisms.

Lecture on The Music of Life given to a general audience in 2012. Stories from The Music of Life are accompanied by background music. The lecture was delivered at an OUT OF THE BOX conference in Maribor, Slovenia, and is typical of many general audience presentations on the book. The conference ended with an open session with HH The Dalai Lama

The scene is Oxford 2009. The university had appointed a ground-breaking scientist as its Eastman Visiting Professor. Lynn Margulis was the champion of a form of evolutionary change (symbiogenesis) that is revolutionary in its impact. As soon as she arrived in Oxford she challenged Richard Dawkins to a debate, and asked Denis Noble to chair it. She also recruited two leading biological scientists to join the debate. It was all recorded by Voices from Oxford. This video is the first part of the debate. Two further parts are linked here: Part 2, featuring a film explaining symbiogenesis, and part 3. which is an audio recording of the final discussion.

Historians and philosophers of science, as well as biologists generally, will be interested in the Transcript and Commentary on the debate. This was compiled by James MacAllister who was present at the debate and was responsible for the audio recording. The unedited complete transcripts can be downloaded from these links: Part1, Part2, Part3.

There is also a marvellous documentary film produced by John Feldman for Hummingbird films entitled Symbiotic Earth: How Lynn Margulis rocked the boat and started a scientific revolution. To view a trailer and information on how to view the film or use it in academic and community screenings visit: https://hummingbirdfilms.com/symbioticearth/watch-the-film/