The one-hit wonder is common to most fields of endeavour. Charles Darwin came up with the evolution thing, but after that, what?

On Wednesday night I attended the celebrity premiere of Clint Eastwood's The Bridges of Madison County. I very rarely get invited to these dos, which is tragic, because shallow moron that I am, I love everything about them. I love walking along the long tunnel of shouting crowds - something that every sensitive, intelligent person I know finds demeaning and embarrassing. I love seeing all the other celebrities. And I really, really, love getting in to see movies for free. Going to one of these premieres reminds me of bunking into the Saturday morning matinee at the local cinema, except now it's the police and the cinema staff who are sneaking down and opening the fire doors for me.

Science confronts the beast within

Today's fashion for Darwinism has its darker side - an attempt to draw moral and social conclusions from what biology tells us is the true nature of the human animal.

LETTER:The cockiness of the new

From Dr. John Woodwark

Letter: Was Darwin really a saint?

GALEN Strawson's review of Janet Browne's new biography of Charles Darwin (7 May) and a follow-up letter (14 May) raise important questions about the public understanding of Darwin and the Victorians. Is public culture better served by understanding Darwin's intellectual commitment to the natural superiority of Europeans as a form of patriotism or by seeing it sociologically as a literal acceptance and unintentional rationalisation of racial inequality, alongside his evident gentleness, humanitarianism and anti-slavery conviction? If this seems a paradox, it is only so from the vantage of a late 20th-century post-Holocaust sensibility. We admit that class privilege in Victorian Britain was pervasive. Must we simultaneously deny that racial privilege in the Victorian Empire was made tolerable (and acceptable) by Victorian scientific culture, including by Darwin and his Circle? Don't we turn Darwin into a saint by insisting he was merely explaining the pervasive racial inequalities of the period?

BOOK REVIEW; Once more into the gene pool

RIVER OUT OF EDEN: Richard Dawkins; Weidenfeld & Nicolson, pounds 9.99

Macho men and the jungle of genes

A new take on the naked ape: Roy Porter asks whether sociobiologists are right to deduce ethics from evolution; THE MORAL ANIMAL Robert Wright Little Brown, £20

BOOKS: GOING APE OVER INSECTS

A weighty new biography shows Charles Darwin in a 'chaos of

LETTER : Morality of the selfish gene

From Mr Galen Strawson

REVIEW: Ricki, Joani, Angel and David Attenborough

Watching Ricki Lake, a late-afternoon import on Channel 4, I was reminded of the answer a Hasidic Jew gave once when he was asked why he didn't have a television. "Because it's the spiritual equivalent of having an open sewer running through your living room," he replied, presumably choosing his words tactfully, given that it was a television crew that had put the question.

Baffled by a formula for change

While the political row over Tony Blair's choice of a grant-maintained school for his son hit the headlines, more profound questions about the funding of GM schools have remained obscure. But a new funding regime for GM schools, due to begin next April, is of great significance.

BOOK REVIEW / The pecking order: 'The Beak of the Finch' - Jonathan Weiner: Cape, 18.99

EVOLUTIONISTS face an insurmountable logical problem when trying to persuade sceptics of the scientific truth of their theories. Darwin's 'Tree of Life', with its 20 or 30 million branches, grew up in the past. There is no way any of its experiments - not even the development of blood corpuscles, let alone the emergence of the dinosaurs - is ever likely to be repeatable, according to classic scientific method. As an explanation of the past, evolutionary theory is closer to the proceedings of a judicial trial than to science, and has to rely on weight of circumstantial evidence rather than outright 'proof'.

The origins of the specious: Richard Dawkins lambasts ignorant philistines who would discredit evolution with pseudo-science

SIR: So the scientists are trying to tell us that the world is round and much smaller than the sun. Pull the other one. I may not have a science degree but even I can tell when I sail on the sea that it is dead flat in all directions. As for the sun, any fool looking up in the sky can see that it is, if anything, smaller than the moon. Scientists need to be taught a lesson in common sense.

Take a chance, there's all to play for

SOMETIMES stating the obvious can seem like bad taste. Here goes: John Smith's death has gifted the Government its last chance for a fresh start. The Prime Minister had already, according to friends, made a personal decision to 'see it through': his talk about there being life outside politics has recently stilled. Out of the spotlight for a change, senior ministers are in reflective mood. There is the opportunity, to put it no higher, for a turning-point in Tory fortunes this summer. The question is, can they seize it?

BOOK REVIEW / Reason not the breed: The Nature of Knowledge: Concerning Adaptations, Instinct and the Evolution of Intelligence by Henry Plotkin: Allen Lane/Penguin Press, pounds 20

FOR more than 2,000 years, the theory of knowledge has been the exclusive preserve of philosophy. From Plato to Wittgenstein, philosophers have struggled alone to explain how we can be certain of the future, or the past, or indeed of anything at all. But over the last couple of decades this monopoly has been coming under increasing threat from biologists. Many specialists in human evolution now feel that 'evolutionary epistemology' can solve many of the problems that have stumped philosophers for generations.

Letter: For 'civilised' read racist

ANTHROPOLOGISTS, and among them, ethnologists, have only lately been waking up to the distance between their field and public debates on contemporary issues. Alberto Manguel drags ethnologists into his review of A History of Civilisations by Fernand Braudel ('The shape of things past', Review, 6 March) and makes it clear just how far anthropological concepts, even one as central as 'culture', remain from the popular domain. Which ethnologists, for example, have provided Manguel with the offensive notion that 'certain societies are 'civilised', that is to say materially advanced, while others are merely 'cultured' '?
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