PUBLIC TALK: Unintelligent Design, the Evolutionary Limits to Biological Design
|Unintelligent Design, the Evolutionary Limits to Biological Design : Public talk with Stuart Bunt, School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology
It is becoming popular to use biological forms and metaphors in engineering, architecture and design. There are also statements about the efficiency and novelty of biological design; with 20:20 hindsight we see ways in which “nature has done it all before and better than us” and we should “learn from nature”. The apparent efficiency and complexity of natural mechanisms has been used by “intelligent designers/creationists” to challenge evolutionary orthodoxy. Even Darwin struggled to explain the evolution of the eye. I will challenge these orthodoxies by presenting case studies of “unintelligent design”, biological inefficiencies and limitations. I will argue that much of modern medicine is actually about treating the results of developmental and evolutionary compromises and that evolutionary medicine should be a part of any modern medical curriculum. I will discuss how inaccuracies (usually referred to as “natural variation”) are key to evolution and natural selection. How, paradoxically, far from being perfectly adapted biological machines, we may actually be selected and designed to be imperfect.
Stuart Bunt studied Natural Philosophy at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford in the 70’s (anywhere else it would have been called Zoology) being tutored by the likes of Tinbergen, Desmond Morris and Richard Dawkins. A D.Phil in Developmental Neuroscience at the Schools of Anatomy and then Physiology at Oxford (On the role of mechanics in the development of connections between the eye and brain) and an MA (for simply being there) followed. Postdocs in Salt Lake City, and Seattle working on the mammalian visual system led to a Research Associate position in the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston there my research direction changed to spinal cord regeneration. After deportation I got a tenured position in The University of Dundee, Scotland. Following a sabbatical in UWA, I was asked to apply for a position when the school wanted to move into computer aided education and arrived in 1996. Since appointment I founded (with Neville Bruce) the digital histology lab, developed with much success by Geoff Meyer, the Image Analysis Centre (with Miranda Grounds and Sarah Dunlop) now part of Cell Central, and run by Guy Ben Ary; SymbioticA (with Oron Catts and Miranda Grounds) and the Medical Diagnostic Company Paradigm Diagnostics. My research areas are the interface between Art/Science and Engineering and, with Karol Miller’s group in bioengineering, the physical properties of brain and medical imaging. I am one of only three professorial Fellows in Teaching and Learning at UWA. I continue to investigate and mentor in new methods of teaching.
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