UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies


Thinking About Science: Episode 4

8 November 2012

The Evolution of Biological Complexity with Nick Lane

Dr Nick Lane (UCL):

Interviewed by Dr Emma Tobin, and Dr Brendan Clarke UCL STS

Interview Date: November 1st 2012

The fourth episode of "Thinking About Science" is now available for download on the STS website. In this episode, Emma Tobin and Brendan Clarke talk with Nick Lane about the evolution of biological complexity. Can we ever know the truth about how complex life emerged? For Nick Lane, evolutionary biochemistry is like historical reconstruction: "The best we can aspire to is that in principle it could have worked that way and we can eliminate certain ways that it could not have worked". Nick thinks scientists should think about first principles and he rejects traditional boundaries between disciplines. Thus, for him Evolutionary Biochemistry is in certain respects "a form of philosophy"!

The conversation touches on many fascinating topics including: the great oxidation event, snowball earth, bioenergetics, and the role of context and symbiosis in the evolution of eukaryotic cells from prokaryotic cells.

The role of scientific method is also discussed: competing theories, hypothesis generation, falsification and why Popper was a little bit right, but also a little bit naive. Nick also explains why in his opinion it is ok for scientists to change their mind over time, and much more!

Listen to the podcast here.


Interviewed by Dr Emma Tobin, and Dr Brendan Clarke UCL STS
Recorded at Science and Technology Studies, UCL by Jo Pearson
Interview Date:  1st November 2012
Music: Andantino in A flat by JN Hummel, recorded  by Jo Pearson