Anyway, here's the description:
This year marks the sesquicentennial of the publication of The Origin of Species and the bicentennial of Charles Darwin’s birth. Considering the importance of the scientific idea, there has been surprisingly little great sf inspired by it. We wonder whether, in fact, if the theory has been too good, too unassailable and too full of explanatory power, to leave the wiggle room where speculative minds can play in. After all, physics not only has FTL and time travel, but mechanisms like wormholes that might conceivably make them possible. What are their equivalents in evolutionary theory, if any?It's an interesting question and Sawyer is asking for comments and suggestions. Here's the comment I left:
I don't think that comparing FTL and time travel are really analogous to evolutionary theory (which - the former are primarily technologies while the latter is an explanation of how the natural world works. Evolution should be as much a part of good world building as gravitation.
That being said, in the science fiction context I think there are multiple ways evolutionary theory can be used, such as stories that look at our evolutionary descendants in the far future (Wells' "The Time Machine", Silverberg's "Son of Man"), alternative evolution on Earth (Wilson's "Darwinia", Harrison's "West of Eden"), and evolution on other planets (Niven & Pournelle's "Mote in God's Eye", Blish's "A Case of Conscience").
I'd also argue that evolutionary theory is so tightly intertwined with modern genetics that human-directed evolution using genetic engineering should also be included (Atwood's "Oryx and Crake", Kagan's "Mirabile" ). I'd wager those are more realistic than FTL travel.
That's off the top of my head - there are certainly other novels that should be included in the list.
Go add your own suggestions.
Gayle Surrette @ A Curious Statistical Anomaly has a report on the panel. An excerpt:
The problem is that with science and physics you can look at the rules and the equations and they work just about anywhere and you know what would happen if you changed any one bit. But for biology we don't have a handle on things. We've only got Earth to see how things work. One sample just isn't enough. We need another planet to have some comparisons. If we found life on another planet and the DNA matched bits of ours that would tell us a lot. But we don't, and things aren't solid.I'm not sure if she noted it wrong or if this is what the panelists really said, because this sounds like a whole lot of stupid. Leaving aside the fact that evolution is science, it makes no sense that we need life on another planet to make biology "solid". Life on another planet would give us insight into how biology operates given completely separate evolution, but that doesn't mean we "don't have a handle" on Earthly biology.
* I really hate the panel title. I don't want novels with "Darwinism", I want novels with modern evolutionary theory. "Darwinism" is what the creationists call it.
Tags:science fiction, biology, evolution