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Darwin may have finished the page proofs, but the process of persuading scientists and the public about evolution had just begun. Darwin pieced together evidence for his theory of natural selection from many sources, including studies of domestic breeding, anatomical similarities among species ("homology"), embryology, the sequential order of fossils, and the presence of vestigial organs. Bur whether this evidence ever constituted "proof" of evolution was questioned at the time and remains unsettled today, in part because of broader cultural and religious concerns about evolution. The "proofs" were far from finished in 1859.
This symposium brings together a line-up of internationally-renowned scholars, representing a cross section of disciplines, who will discuss historical, philosophical and scientific perspectives on Darwin and evolution. It has two general aims. First, it seeks to trace the different ways in which evolution has been understood in this period, and how these ways of understanding related to the changing basis of scientific evidence on evolution. Second, it seeks to explain why scientific "proofs" of Darwinian evolution have been unpersuasive to many individuals, including those who promote creationism and intelligent design. The speakers' perspectives on evolution have raised important questions about the nature of the evidence in favor of evolution, and the relationship between proof and belief. Put another way, a focus on Darwin's critics and supporters can illuminate the many ways in which "proof" has been understood in the last 150 years.
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