This episode of the Maine Humanities Council’s Humanities on Demand podcast series is a recording of the talk “How Darwin’s Mind Worked,” by Don Dearborn. His lecture was part of the first annual Dorothy Schwartz Forum on Art, Science, and the Humanities. It was held on November 15th, 2014, and focused on the topic “Why Darwin Matters.”
Don Dearborn is an evolutionary biologist and chair of the Biology Department at Bates College. Working at research sites in Central America, New Zealand, the Middle East, and on remote oceanic islands, he has published extensively on how evolution shapes the behavior of animals – including deception, retaliation, and reproductive parasitism. His research on wild animal populations sometimes conveniently intersects with his love of whitewater kayaking, trail running, and mountain biking. A native of North Carolina, he lives in Lewiston, Maine, with his wife and daughter.
In this podcast, he discusses Darwin’s methods and explains the scientific significance of his work. “You all know the basic scientific method,” Dearborn says. “You’ve got an observation that you make… you derive a hypothesis from that and then you set out to test it in some more structured way. Use your data, draw a conclusion, and then revise your hypothesis or repeat that.
“So for Darwin that early process obviously led to a somewhat difficult place. It led to a conclusion that to him eventually seemed inescapable, but that he knew was going to be a tough sell for a wide audience. So his response to that was to keep collecting data…to build this unassailable case, more data, more data, more data.”