a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.




The duty of scientists towards the public
Christian de Duve Scientist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

Interestingly, professional evolutionists, but independently of my little theory, are coming to the same conclusion, and you read the latest book by Simon Conway Morris, you read the latest book by Richard Dawkins, and you find a new... a new main theme, which is evolutionary convergence – that is, two lines evolving completely separately, one in Australia, the other one in South America, and coming to the same adaptations to the same environmental challenges. And there are hundreds of examples of this and both Dawkins and Conway Morris who have completely different philosophical attitudes... Dawkins is a militant atheist and Conway Morris is a practising Christian – I don't know what denomination – and so they both agree on this particular point. So I think the biologists of the future will see a different history of life. Instead of the mono Gould vision of everything is governed by chance, they will see a much more obligatory and deterministic pathway for the origin of life and for its evolution in the direction of increasing complexity. And so that, I think, is probably my... my main little contribution to this whole field, and so partly to... to make it clearer and put it into a scientific context, I have written this book, Singularities. And if I have time and incentive to do it, I may well write yet another book. I don't know about that, but maybe one that I would call in English, Listening to Life, which is a title I like for the French book, and in which I would just put the... the amount of information that is really of interest for the general public, because I think it's important for our scientists to... to try to inform and, if possible, educate the general public, because the only chance... the only opportunity that mankind has, or humankind has, to prevent some of the catastrophes that can be feared, if not predicted, in the future is to... to choose their leaders better than they have done today, because it's the leaders that are really responsible. And we, the general public... we choose our leaders by voting for them and to vote wisely, we have to be informed, we have to be educated, and I think this is really what is lacking in the world today, that not enough people are correctly informed and correctly educated. I think this is a major responsibility for us as scientists. We must get out of our labs and our institutes, and we must go into the public, write to the newspapers, and participate in this... in this activity of information and education of the general public.

Belgian biochemist Christian de Duve (1917-2013) was best known for his work on understanding and categorising subcellular organelles. He won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1974 for his joint discovery of lysosomes, the subcellular organelles that digest macromolecules and deal with ingested bacteria.

Listeners: Peter Newmark

Peter Newmark has recently retired as Editorial Director of BioMed Central Ltd, the Open Access journal publisher. He obtained a D. Phil. from Oxford University and was originally a research biochemist at St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical School in London, but left research to become Biology Editor and then Deputy Editor of the journal Nature. He then became Managing Director of Current Biology Ltd, where he started a series of Current Opinion journals, and was founding Editor of the journal Current Biology. Subsequently he was Editorial Director for Elsevier Science London, before joining BioMed Central Ltd.

Tags: Singularities, Simon Conway Morris, Richard Dawkins

Duration: 4 minutes

Date story recorded: September 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008