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Viviparity may be a big evolutionary mistake!


James Watson and Francis Crick transformed biology
John Maynard Smith Scientist
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Watson and Crick just transformed the way we see biology. They made sense of why Weismann was right and not Lamarck. I think before Watson and Crick, the world just was very puzzling. How could genes be doing what we claimed they were doing? The whole thing was mysterious. But certainly, the universality of the genetic material is something that came as a shock to us, I think.

[Q] Once again, Medawar said, it is simply not worth bothering to argue with someone so stupid as not to see that Watson and Crick was the greatest discovery. Do you think he goes too far there?

No, no. I can imagine Medawar arguing with somebody about it though.

The late British biologist John Maynard Smith (1920-2004) is famous for applying game theory to the study of natural selection. At Eton College, inspired by the work of old Etonian JBS Haldane, Maynard Smith developed an interest in Darwinian evolutionary theory and mathematics. Then he entered University College London (UCL) to study fruit fly genetics under Haldane. In 1973 Maynard Smith formalised a central concept in game theory called the evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS). His ideas, presented in books such as 'Evolution and the Theory of Games', were enormously influential and led to a more rigorous scientific analysis and understanding of interactions between living things.

Listeners: Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins was educated at Oxford University and has taught zoology at the universities of California and Oxford. He is a fellow of New College, Oxford and the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. Dawkins is one of the leading thinkers in modern evolutionary biology. He is also one of the best read and most popular writers on the subject: his books about evolution and science include "The Selfish Gene", "The Extended Phenotype", "The Blind Watchmaker", "River Out of Eden", "Climbing Mount Improbable", and most recently, "Unweaving the Rainbow".

Tags: James Watson, Francis Crick, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, August Weismann, Peter Medawar

Duration: 43 seconds

Date story recorded: April 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008