UCL Health of the Public


Mendel’s randomness: from allowing complex life to facilitating causal inference

13 February 2024, 3:45 pm–6:00 pm

Adam and George

Join us on 13 Feb to hear from Prof George Davey Smith on 'Mendel’s randomness: from allowing complex life to facilitating causal inference'.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Daisy Harvey – UCL


Jeffery Hall
UCL Institute of Education
20 Bedford Way
United Kingdom

This event will be hosted by scientist, writer and broadcaster Dr Adam Rutherford.

This event is available via live stream, but we encourage you to attend in person for the full experience.


Mendel’s laws, as formulated by others in the early 20th century, are often presented in terms of chance / random events. In this talk, Prof George Davey Smith will explore the history of this, in relation to the work of Robert Heath Lock, Thomas Hunt Morgan, Sewall Wright and R A Fisher. It will be suggested that the randomness of Mendelian processes underlay Fisher’s formulation of randomised trials, initially in the agricultural field. The deployment of such natural random allocation for understanding phenotype-to-phenotype causal pathways (“Mendelian randomization”) will be briefly outlined, and its possible utility in understanding the mechanisms of selection discussed. However there are considerably more fundamental aspects of Mendel’s randomness – which relate to allowing the emergence of complex life – which will provide much of the material for the talk, and may explain why there are sentient beings around to discuss such issues.

Speaker Biography

George Davey Smith was a member of the noise-terrorism outfit Scum Auxiliary in the early 1980s. Since artistic and commercial success eluded them, he has had to earn his living working as an epidemiologist in the provinces.

Host Biography

Adam Rutherford is a British Professor of Genetics and Biosciences, a Sunday Times bestselling author, a broadcaster, and a columnist with over two decades of experience in science and the origin of life.

Organised in collaboration with the UCL MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing and UCL Health of the Public.