Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday has sparked celebrations all around the world, and surprisingly enough, this year, the Catholic Church is no exception. Next month, a papal conference in honor of Charles Darwin will be held at the Vatican and Swarthmore’s very own biologist, Professor Scott Gilbert, will be in attendance.
As reported by the Times Online, the Catholic Church has officially endorsed evolution as a theory that is both scientifically sound and reconciliable with Christianity. According to the Times Online, organizers of the conference even considered banning discussions of “Intelligent Design” all together, though now it will be dealt with peripherally as a cultural phenomenon.
Gilbert said in an e-mail that he would be discussing evolutionary developmental biology— “the notion that hereditary changes in development are critical for the formation of novel anatomical structures”— at the conference. “This is an important idea, since several people who dispute evolution have said that evolutionary biology cannot explain the gaps between species, genera, and classes,.” he said. Gilbert explained that despite the fact evolutionary developmental biology is a very young field (the first journals on this topic date back only to 2000), developmental biologists are already discovering that altering genes that are responsible for development create new anatomical structures.
The Gazette will publish a more in-depth interview with Professor Gilbert once he returns from his trip.