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An admiration for excellence


The future of our species
Christian de Duve Scientist
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So what will happen? Well, I don't know. Nobody knows. But either our children and our few coming generations will somehow, through their reason, acquire the necessary wisdom, in which case they may... they may prevent major disasters to occur... from occurring, or they won't because it's not in their genes, and they can't learn it rapidly enough. And then natural selection will take care of them; that is, the consequences of some of our misguided actions will be so dramatic that natural selection will intervene and save whatever has to be saved at that time. And I don't like to end on a pessimistic note, but as I am speaking right now, a major disaster is again menacing New Orleans and Houston, Texas. It's a week after... after Katrina. Now winter comes and it's going to... and maybe we don't know, but there is some evidence that all these increasingly devastating hurricanes maybe linked to some extent with the climate change, and a climate change that we may have been causing through our activities, our use of fossil fuels and so on and so on and so on. I don't know, but there is a possibility, a very distinct possibility, or even a probability, that if we continue acting the way we do, then increasingly devastating events are going to... to happen and that will certainly endanger the future of life on our planet, and it's a future for quite a long time. Well, we don't know, but I think those are possibilities that we have to keep in mind and we can only hope that those who are responsible for the leadership of the human species will have... exert... exert enough responsibility and enough wisdom to prevent those disasters from taking place.

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: natural selection, Katrina, hurricanes, climate change, environment

Duration: 3 minutes, 4 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008