Navigation – Plan du site
4 | 2008-2009
The Letter
Academic year 2008-2009
Facts and data

Collège de France Autumn Symposium – 2009-2010

Darwin is 200 years old. 15 and 16 October 2009
p. 82

2009 is the bicentenary of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck’s zoological philosophy and of Charles Darwin’s birth. It is also the 150th anniversary of On The Origin of Species. It was important for the Collège de France to contribute in an original way to celebrating this “evolution year”.

Darwin is 200 years old – and fortunately still has all his teeth, one is tempted to add. For he certainly needs them in this age where, in various countries and not only the most scientifically backward ones, lawyer of the fallacy of “intelligent design” campaign, sometimes successfully, to have it taught on an equal footing with evolutionary theory.

If all species except humans had undergone an evolutionary process, the attack would be less violent and would trigger less credulity. But today, like yesterday, linking human beings to their animal nature is unacceptable to many.

This re-opening symposium is designed to answer the questions raised by contemporary debate. First, the history of evolutionism and our current conceptions will be reviewed. The theory of evolution, unlike dogma, is itself evolving and is the subject of many impassioned scientific discussions.

Human beings will then be explored from two angles, hominization and humanization, as a way of connecting biological evolution to its social and cultural dimensions. The examination of relations between science and art will be completed by an “installation”.

The speakers are from various disciplines: biology of course, but also philosophy, law, sociology, and anthropology. The multiplicity of viewpoints, in keeping with the spirit of the Collège de France, is expected to further our understanding of the human phenomenon. It will be an opportunity for collective reflection on the past and future evolution of our species.


15 October under the chairmanship of Jacques Reisse. Free University of Brussels

  • Opening by Pierre Corvol, Administrator of the Collège de France

  • Introduction by Jean-Pierre Changeux, Collège de Franc

  • Armand de Ricqlès, Collège de France
    History of evolutionism

  • Anne Fagot-Largeault, Collège de France
    Evolutionism as an historical science

  • Isabelle Olivieri, University of Montpellier II, Institut Universitaire de France
    Synthetic theory and saltationism

  • Chris Bowler, École Normale Supérieure
    Haeckel and evolution, the point of view of diatoms

  • Vincent Colot, École Normale Supérieure
    Epigenetics across the generations: simply an oddity or a driver of adaptation?

  • Luis Quintana-Murci, Pasteur Institute and CNRS
    Genetics, history of humans and natural selection

  • Stanislas Dehaene, Collège de France
    When neuronal recycling prolongs hominization

  • Michel Brunet, Collège de France
    Hominids…New paradigms of African origin

16 October. under the chairmanship of Françoise Héritier. Collège de France

  • Jean Gayon, University Paris I Pantheon-Sorbonne
    The origins of mental and moral faculties in Darwin’s and Wallace’s work

  • Mireille Delmas-Marty, Collège de France
    Hominization and humanization

  • Miguel Nicolelis, Duke University
    Computing with Neural Ensembles

  • Jean-Michel Besnier, École Polytechnique
    How to think the post-human

  • Catherine Malabou, University Paris X and Buffalo University

  • Morphological transformations: programme, promise, or beyond?

  • Lorraine Daston, Max Planck Institute, Berlin
    Why does nature have moral authority – Even if it shouldn’t?

  • Allan Young, McGill University
    The traumatic evolutionary history of human nature and sub-cortical brain

  • Philippe Descamps, University Paris IV Sorbonne
    The sacred of the human species

  • Antoine Compagnon, Collège de France
    Darwin in literature

The programme and lectures will be available on