Museum lecture reveals new perspective on evolution | Sept 29

IslandsintheCosmos2How did we come to be here? Answers to this question have preoccupied humans for millennia. Scientists have sought clues in the genes of living things, in the physical environments of Earth — from mountaintops to the depths of the ocean, in the chemistry of this world and those nearby, in the tiniest particles of matter, and in the deepest reaches of space.

On Tuesday, September 29, Senior Curator of Paleontology Dale Russell presents a talk based on his new book “Islands in the Cosmos: The Evolution of Life on Land,” which follows evolution from its origins to the present day. The talk begins at 6:30 p.m. at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh and is the fourth offering of the Museum’s Charles Darwin Lecture Series.

In “Islands of the Cosmos,” Russell traces a path from the dawn of the universe to speculations about our future on this planet. He centers his story on the physical and biological processes in evolution, which interact to favor more successful, and eliminate less successful, forms of life. It remains to be seen, Russell notes in the book, whether the human form can survive the dynamic processes that brought it into existence.

Russell is also author of “A Vanished World: The Dinosaurs of Western Canada” and “An Odyssey in Time: The Dinosaurs of North America”. Science author David E. Fastovsky calls Russell “one of the great creative thinkers of all time in paleontology.”

Russell played a key role in the discovery of the world’s first dinosaur specimen with a fossilized heart, which became international news when it was reported in the April 21, 2000 issue of the journal Science. The 66-million-year-old Thescelosaurus, nicknamed Willo, is on display in the Museum’s Prehistoric North Carolina exhibit hall.

Please RSVP to museum.reservations[at] This lecture is free of charge and seating is on a first come, first served basis. Doors to the Museum and auditorium will open at 6 p.m. Signed copies of the book will be available for purchase.

The Museum, in collaboration with the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) and the W.M. Keck Center for Behavioral Biology at North Carolina State University, is presenting this lecture series throughout 2009 to commemorate the bicentennial of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of “The Origin of Species.”

On Tuesday, November 24, Museum paleontologist and Darwin scholar Paul Brinkman presents the fifth and final lecture in the series: “Charles Darwin’s Beagle Voyage and the Origin of ‘The Origin’.”

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