Steve Jones Lecture at UCL

A month ago or so I attended a lecture at UCL by the wonderful Dr. Steve Jones. It was entitled – evidently from the title of this post – ‘Why creationism is wrong and evolution is right’. Here are a few jots I got down during the hour describing his argument.

He began explaining the various global interpretations of the way the earth began: Genesis: Adam and Eve, the Cosmic Egg and the Theory of Evolution (Defined as ‘descent with modification – information passed down alters from generation to generation). He said that while not all of these theories can be right. One of them has to explain how the world began.

Jones’s main points to support the last argument – theory of evolution – went as follows:

  • Chimpanzees and Humans share about 95% of their DNA, this has brought a certain amount of controversy as some people are not terribly excited about the idea of reducing themselves to be along the same level as ‘animals’
  • Languages have similarities which were mentioned by the philologist Sir William Jones that languages are all related to one another (this contested the biblical account of the Tower of Babylon)

Some other interesting points he made also included the origin of blonde hair. It is believed to have come about from a desperate need to gain vitamin D from sunlight and shed melanin – the pigment found in hair and skin colour (the more melanin you possess, the darker your features will be – this is advantageous in hot climates found in Africa and the Middle East, for example, but not so great for those of us who inhabit Northern Europe!).

Roughly 10,000 years ago early farmers had severe nutritional problems. Cereal crops that were grown in the middle east spread to Northern Europe. The nutritional value from these crops were minimal – they didn’t provide the vitamin D required for people to survive. A shortage of vitamin D can lead to a number of complications – poor bones, digestive problems respiratory problems and the inability for women to give birth. This was an evolutionary threat to the species and too much melanin was the barrier to obtaining the vital vitamin D required. Thus melanin production dropped and the blonde was born! In short, the formula to blonde is a lousy diet + poor weather = an increased need to lose melanin = blondies!

He also mentioned that women (the X chromosome) are slightly more related to chimpanzees than men. I’m not too sure about that. Additionally, the modern humans have slightly smaller brains than their earlier ancestors although progression through time has shown an increase in size.

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