Two LAU professors attend international conference on Darwin’s legacy
Dr. Pierre Zalloua (left), assistant dean for Research at LAU's School of Medicine, and Dr. Ramez Maluf, chair of LAU's Communication Arts Department, participated in the "Darwin's Living Legacy" conference in Egypt.
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December 4, 2009—
Egypt — Two LAU professors lectured at a conference entitled “Darwin’s Living Legacy,” marking the bicentenary of Charles Darwin’s birth and 150th anniversary of the publication of his groundbreaking book On the Origin of Species, held at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt from November 14-16 and organized by the British Council.
Dr. Pierre Zalloua, associate professor and assistant dean for Research at LAU’s School of Medicine, and Dr. Ramez Maluf, associate professor and chair of the Communication Arts Department, were among around 120 guest speakers from about 30 countries worldwide who explored the role of evolutionary science in the study of a number of areas, including medicine, biology and the environment.
Considered to be the basis for the theory of evolution, On the Origin of Species has impacted various scientific fields but remains a controversial book among many communities around the world, as it is often regarded to have challenged the monotheistic view of creation.
“The most interesting thing about [the conference] was that it really brought together people from around the world with conflicting views about these issues and there were lively and significant debates,” says Maluf. He considered the conference atypical, since in most other scholarly events, experts usually see the same people in their field.
The speakers gave lectures arranged around three subject areas in parallel sessions throughout the three days: cutting-edge evolutionary science, applications of evolutionary science, and social and cultural impacts of Darwinism and evolution.
Zalloua says he enjoyed and learned a lot from the conference, and appreciated its “multidisciplinary nature.” He also liked being exposed “to many different concepts from very different backgrounds that were tackling the same [topic].”
“What Darwin said 150 years ago is very hard to refute even today,” says Zalloua. He explains that Darwin’s theory sometimes attracts controversy because people have misconceptions about it.
“Darwin never said we descended from apes — that’s not what Darwin is about. Darwin is about evolution and the way evolution happens from a scientific perspective,” he explains.
Zalloua says Darwin wrote about science and urged people not to draw non-scientific conclusions from his work. “Let’s judge Darwin on his scientific merit,” he says. “From a scientific perspective I think it’s very hard for us to say Darwin was wrong. He was wrong on certain elements of his theory … that’s why there is Neo-Darwinism now.”
Zalloua’s lecture, entitled “From Africa to the Levant,” dealt with the migration of the first humans out of Africa 130,000 years ago to the current Levant area, which took approximately 90,000 years and happened in two phases due to changes in the Earth’s climate.
Maluf, who holds a Ph.D. in the history of science and has been interested in Darwin since he was a graduate student, gave a talk on how the Arab media had been reporting on Darwin, specifically over the past six months on the occasion of the anniversaries of his birth and of the publication of his book.