Biology

Olivia Judson on evolution in progress

OliviajudsonOlivia Judson (TED2005) has a provocative piece in the Sunday New York Times, tying together two timely topics in the TED community: Avian flu and the evolution “debate.” Judson, the evolutionary biologist who wrote Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation, explains how the nail-biting progression of Avian Flu (Will it jump from birds to humans? Will it mutate? Will it become more lethal?) is an opportunity to watch evolution in progress. She concludes with words of caution — not on bird flu, but on the politics of science:

But the most important point is this: viruses and other pathogens evolve in ways that we can understand and, to some extent, predict. Whether it’s preventing a flu pandemic or tackling malaria, we can use our knowledge of evolutionary processes in powerful and practical ways, potentially saving the lives of tens of millions of people. So let’s not strip evolution from the textbooks, or banish it from the class, or replace it with ideologies born of wishful thinking. If we do, we might find ourselves facing the consequences of natural selection.