Medawar Lecture 2016

We are pleased to announce that speaker for the next Annual Medawar Lecture is Nicholas Humphrey, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at LSE and Visiting Professor of Philosophy, at the New College of the Humanities.
Nicholas Humphrey is author of many academic papers and popular science books on the evolution of human intelligence and consciousness and earned several prestigious awards, such as the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize, the British Psychological Society’s book award, the Pufendorf Medal and the International Mind and Brain Prize.

For our Medawar event, Nicholas will unfold some of the mysteries regarding the conception of human consciousness, a golden opportunity you wouldn’t want to miss:

The Invention of Consciousness

In English we use the word “invention” in two ways. First, to mean a new device or process developed by experimentation, and designed to fulfill a practical goal. Second, to mean a mental fabrication, especially a falsehood, developed by art, and designed to please or persuade.

In this talk I’ll argue that human consciousness is an invention in both respects. First, it is a cognitive faculty, evolved by natural selection, designed to help us make sense of ourselves and our surroundings. But then, second, it is a fantasy, conjured up by the brain, designed to persuade us of our own metaphysical importance.

This event is free to attend and open to anyone so we encourage you to bring friends and family.
Where: Roberts G06 Sir Ambrose Fleming LT

When: 6pm, 26th of January 2015

After the talk there will be a chance to chat with Nicholas and the rest of the attendees for an informal drinks reception at the venue and a sit-down meal in a local restaurant. If you would like to attend the dinner please send us an email to londonevolution@gmail.com to reserve your seat.

The London Evolutionary Research Network hope you all have a great Christmas Holidays and a very happy New Year and we look forward to see many of you for the Medawar Lecture in January and for all the exciting events which will be coming up in 2016!

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Secrets of Sleep: Predators, Parasites and the Evolution of Sleep in Mammals

Thank you to everyone that attended our last events. This month we have Dr Isabella Capellini from the University of Hull speaking about the evolution of sleep in mammals.
Venue: Tuesday 3rd June, 5pm, Medawar Building (G01 Lankester Lecture Theatre) at UCL.

Secrets of Sleep: Predators, Parasites and the Evolution of Sleep in Mammals – Dr Isabella Capellini

ABSTRACT:
Sleep is an essential requirement for animal life. While we have a good understanding of the major proximate mechanisms controlling sleep, we know much less about the ecological constraints on sleep time and how they influence the evolution of sleep. Here we exploit the great diversity in mammalian sleep patterns to investigate questions on the role of ecological constraints in the evolution of sleep patterns. We show that ecological pressures – predation risk, sociality, parasite risk – have a much greater impact on the evolution of sleep that previously acknowledged, determining how much time species can devote to sleep. Conversely, we find no evidence in support to the idea that sleep enables energy conservation. We also investigate how sleep is organized within the activity budget of the species and show that ‘packing’ sleep needs into fewer bouts leads to greater efficiency by reducing daily sleep times. Thus, contrary to what often suggested in sleep science, ecology has a major role in driving the evolution of animal sleep patterns.
There is a chance to meet the speaker before the talk, from 4:30pm for a relaxed meet & greet in the same venue.

 

It is of course free to attend and there will be a chance to chat with the speaker afterwards as we retire to a nearby pub.
Please do circulate this to anyone that might be interested!
poster3June-page-001Please share with your university networks.

Above the Species: The Evolutionary Significance of Higher Taxa

Thank you to everyone that attended our last event, Digital Organisms. This month we have Dr Aelys Humphreys speaking about the evolutionary significance of higher taxa. Same place, same time, see you there!

Venue: Thursday 22nd May, 5pm, Medawar Building (G02 Watson Lecture Theatre) at UCL.

It is of course free to attend and there will be a chance to chat with the speaker afterwards as we retire to a nearby pub.

Please do circulate this to anyone that might be interested!

Above the Species: The Evolutionary Significance of Higher Taxa

Identifying biodiversity units is fundamental to studying how diversity evolves. Species are widely regarded to represent discrete, evolutionary units and the processes by which species are formed are well known from a rich body of theoretical literature. In contrast, and despite their historical status as natural entities, higher taxa (e.g. families and genera) tend not to be considered real, evolutionary units in the same way; processes that cause evolution of discrete groups above the species tend not to be considered.

In this talk we will consider how biodiversity is patterned above the species and how such patterns evolve. Using simulations we show that processes that cause evolution of discrete species, geographical isolation and ecological divergence, can cause evolution of discrete, independently evolving units above the species as well. Analyses of densely sampled phylogenies provide strong evidence for the existence of such units in both vertebrates and seed plants. In mammals they tend to correspond to the family level in traditional taxonomy, whereas in gymnospermous plants they tend to correspond to genera. The analytical framework and the findings we will present offer a new realm for studying diversity at broad scales and provide a crossroads between taxonomy and evolution currently lacking above the species.Aelys Humphreys

Please share with your university networks.

Digital Organisms: Simulating macroevolution in silico from first principals

The London Evolutionary Research Network is delighted to announce the next event in our evolution seminar series, to be held on the 24th of April at 5pm in the Medawar Building (G02 Watson Lecture Theatre) at UCL.

Dr Mark Sutton of Imperial College London will be presenting a talk entitled “Digital Organisms: Simulating macroevolution in silico from first principles.” See below for the talk abstract.

It is free to attend and there will be a chance to chat with the speaker afterwards as we retire to a nearby pub.

Please do circulate this to anyone that might be interested!

Digital Organisms: Simulating macroevolution in silico from first principles

Evolution is an algorithmic process, and is hence amenable to computer simulation, providing a powerful means of evaluating the validity and theoretical underpinning of emergent evolutionary phenomena observed in nature. Simulations of microevolution are nothing new, but macroevolutionary processes and patterns (occurring over palaeontological timescales and ideally taking into account geography and complex environmental fluctuations) have not as yet been fully explored with this approach. EVOSIM is a new software package optimised for high-speed evolutionary simulation of sexually reproducing organisms over million-year timescales and fluctuating geographically constrained environments. Speciation emerges from first principles, and species origination, geographical range, and phylogeny can be tracked automatically. Environments can be modified over time, enabling events such as mass extinctions to be simulated and studied under controlled conditions. EVOSIM is still in late-stage development, but preliminary test-studies appear to demonstrate a ‘punctuated equilibrium’ pattern as an emergent phenomenon.

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