Science TEDTalks

Talks to celebrate Charles Darwin’s birthday

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May


The day was February 12, 1809. The place was Shrewsbury, England. The person born there: Charles Darwin. With the publication of his classic, On the Origins of Species, Darwin set the wheels in motion for a dramatic transformation of the way human beings understand the world and how we came to exist in it . Here, seven speakers who’ve discussed what Darwin proposed on the TED stage:

Steven Johnson: Where good ideas come from
“Darwin himself, in his autobiography, tells the story of coming up with the idea for natural selection as a classic ‘eureka!’ moment. He’s in his study, it’s October of 1893 …”

Michael Pollan gives a plant’s eye view
“Who’s the more sophisticated species? Well, we’re all equally sophisticated. We’ve been evolving just as long, along different paths. It’s a cure for self-importance, a way to sort of make us feel the Darwinian idea.”

Robert Full on engineering and evolution
“Really, evolution works more like a tinkerer than an engineer.  This is really important when you begin to look at animals.”

Dan Dennett: Cute, sexy, sweet, funny
“I’m going around the world giving talks about Darwin, and usually what I’m talking about is Darwin’s strange inversion of reasoning. Now that title, that phrase, comes from a critic …”

Jonathan Haidt: Religion, evolution and the ecstasy of self-transcendence
“In The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin wrote a great deal about the evolution of morality. Where did it come from? Why do we have it?”

Juan Enriquez: Will our kids be a different species?
“The first place where you would expect to see enormous evolutionary pressure today, both because of the inputs — which are becoming massive — and because of the plasticity of the organ, is the brain.”

Dennis Dutton: A Darwinian theory of beauty
“How can we explain this universality? The best answer lies in trying to reconstruct a Darwinian evolutionary history of artistic and aesthetic tastes. We need to reverse-engineer them.”