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Web of Stories offers you the chance to listen to some of the greatest people of our time telling their life stories.

Crystallography at Oxford University

Dorothy Hodgkin


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The human species as an intermediary stage

Christian de Duve - Scientist

Well, think of Lucy. Lucy is, of course, now well-known because her skeleton was discovered some years ago in the Ethiopian desert. Lucy had a brain of about 400 cubic centimetres, so something a little better than a chimpanzee. What happened in her brain, of course, must have been extremely crude. She probably was thinking of finding food, of maybe taking care of her kids, finding a mate and maybe finding a stick and hitting the head of another female – things of that kind. That's probably the best that we can think of that could happen in her brain. She certainly could not have, let us say, imagined or formulated the theory of relativity. She could obviously not have formulated the theory of natural selection. She could not have composed the Ninth Symphony or whatever. I mean, she could not have done what the human brain has... has achieved with a brain size three times her brain size. She could not have imagined... the same way we cannot possibly, with our little brain we're so proud of... we could not possibly imagine what would happen in those hypothetical beings who would have twice the size of our brain. And so they... the only thing that I'm ready to predict is that they will have closer contact with Ultimate Reality. They will understand things about Ultimate Reality that we are unable to understand with our limited brain power. They will... they will have emotions that we cannot share with them because... and so on. So they will approach... this is in a way maybe something of a Teilhardian thought about moving towards the point Omega. I'm not a fan of Teilhard de Chardin, but I can see there is certainly this evolution in the direction of increasing complexity leading to, let us say, closer contact with what I call Ultimate Reality. So this... this finding or recognition, which, of course, I'm not... I'm not personally responsible, for many people have said this before me, but which I share with... it certainly should inspire in us a feeling of healthy humbleness – modesty. We're not the crowning event in evolution. We are not the final outcome. We are not the kings and queens of creation. We are just an intermediary form in a process that is far from finished and may quite possibly give rise to beings who will look upon us the way we look upon Lucy.

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