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Ciclo de Conferências - 200 anos de Darwin
Conference: "Organisms can be proud to have been their own designers"—organismal intelligence and the origin of design in nature

Prof. R.I. Vane-Wright
Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE),
University of Kent, Canterbury CT2 7NR,
United Kingdom

Whole organisms act out “a life of meaning” based on a mixture of inherited and some learned understanding of their world. Organisms, each one in its own special way, are highly intelligent, not “dumb” or “stupid” as so often claimed. It will be argued that this organismal intelligence is the wellspring of adaptation, the source of the seeming design seen in all living things. Each individual organism contributes, through its own particular life of meaning, to the design of the evolutionary lineage to which it contributes—the evolving, adaptable and adapted species. Although mediated, constrained and ultimately passed on by Darwinian selection acting on available mutations working within established genetic mechanisms, this process is not controlled by random mutation. Thus evolution, once started, is not the product of blind chance, nor does it require the intervention of an external, “intelligent designer.” Organisms design themselves.

Biosketch: Dick Vane-Wright, entomologist, and a Zoology graduate from University College London, spent his professional career working at London’s world famous Natural History Museum. In 2003 he received the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, from the University of Copenhagen. Currently Honorary Professor of Taxonomy at DICE, he continues to work on a wide variety of projects related to entomology, biodiversity and conservation—all linked by a critical interest in the origin of biological diversity, and the importance of evolution and ecology for understanding our place in nature. Dick Vane-Wright has been associated with The Natural History Museum for over 40 years, where he specialised on butterflies. He retired from the Museum in 2004, as Head of the Department of Entomology. His books include Milkweed Butterflies (1984), The Biology of Butterflies (1984), and, most recently, The Seymer Legacy. He now divides most of his time between studies on the history of entomology, taxonomy, butterflies, and environmental philosophy. Current book projects include a major work on worldviews, values and the future of biodiversity; a book entitled The Tasks of Taxonomy; a richly illustrated popular account of butterfly biology; a series of short illustrated books on contemporary British artists inspired by nature; and the revival of a work on the higher classification of butterflies. Research continues on swallowtail and milkweed butterflies, and the butterflies of Maluku. Future projects include accounts of the virtually unknown but remarkable 18th century watercolours of Jamaican insects made by Luke John Robins, and of world butterflies made by his brother, Thomas Robins the Younger.

Local: Univ. Évora - Colégio Espírito Santo, auditório 131, 17h
Realization Date:16 of October of 2009, 17h00