Thursday, July 30, 2009

Darwin's Rubbish

We're in Maine for a few days for a meeting in Bar Harbor. It's a celebration of the 50th anniversary of 'short courses' at Jackson Labs, an organization that focuses on genetic research, primarily having to do with health. They've developed and maintain numerous model mouse strains for research -- diabetic mice, obese mice, mice susceptible to cancer, and so on. If you work in a mammalian genetics lab, you've ordered mice from Jackson Labs.

The meeting tomorrow is the culminating day of the "Symposium celebrating the 50th Annual Short Course on Medical and Experimental Mammalian Genetics", with a focus on the future of genetic research, and an emphasis on personalized medicine. Speakers are charged with addressing the question, "What are the scientific, technical, social and legal implications of 21st century medicine?" Mario Capecchi from the University of Utah will be talking on "The Future of Development", Janet Davison Rowley on "The Future of Cancer", Richard Axel on "The Future of Neurogenetics", Francis Collins on "The Future of Individualized Medicine", and so on. Ken was asked to speak on "The Future of Evolution", but has changed the title (to "Darwin's "Rubbish": 150 Years of Evolution and Counting"), as the future of evolution seemed obvious (it will happen, but its course is unpredictable) and wouldn't fill a half hour.

Ken's new title refers to a letter Darwin wrote to Asa Gray on Sept 5, 1857, upon completion of The Origin of Species. Gray was a famous botanist at Harvard, and long- time correspondent of Darwin's. In the letter, Darwin wrote,
“This sketch is most imperfect; but in so short a space I cannot make it better. Your imagination must fill up many wide blanks. Without some reflection, it will appear all rubbish; perhaps it will appear so after reflection.”
More to come.

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