Darwin 'Origin of Species' report features Penn State anthropologist

University Park, Pa. -- A renowned Penn State biological anthropologist, Kenneth Weiss, joins an international team of evolution experts in response to a basic question: How did Charles Darwin's seminal book "On the Origin of Species" influence science and society during the last 150 years?

Their interviews and essays are part of a new online report "Evolution of Evolution: 150 Years of Darwin's On the Origin of Species," created by the National Science Foundation. The interactive multimedia feature celebrates the author's 200th birthday on Feb. 12 and the upcoming anniversary of the book, which will be 150 years old on Nov. 24.

Of the book "Origin," Weiss, who is the Evan Pugh professor of biological anthropology and genetics in Penn State's College of the Liberal Arts, notes, "Darwin…provided humans with the understanding that we are part of life itself. He showed that all life is one phenomenon."

In addition to appearing on video interviews, 12 researchers also wrote accompanying essays that look at "Origin's" impacts on scientific discovery ranging from biology, geosciences to polar sciences and even astronomy. The entire report is at http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/darwin/.

In the longer interview on anthropology, Weiss notes about the impact on future scientific discoveries: "Since his time, we've focused on competition and natural selection as leading to genotypes that determine the kind of organism that we are and, yet, one of the most characteristics of humans is things that are not determined…I think that the application of these various principles about how cells cooperate with each other will actually change our views from a highly predetermined view of the nature of humans to a highly unpredetermined view."

His essay is available at http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/darwin/anthro.jsp. Text-only versions also are available on the site.

Weiss is the author of several books, including "Demographic Models for Anthropology," "Genetic Variation and Human Disease: Principles and Evolutionary Approaches," "The Mermaids Tale: Four Billion Years of Cooperation in the Making of Living Things," with Anne V. Buchanan, and "Genetics and the Logic of Evolution," also with Buchanan.

His work consists of more than 250 journal articles covering topics such as evolutionary and developmental genetics, complex biological traits and human variation, evolutionary principles, and the philosophy and societal implications of biology.

Last Updated November 18, 2010