Page last updated at 14:26 GMT, Thursday, 10 September 2009 15:26 UK

Friday 11 September: Darwin special

On a special Newsnight Review, eminent scientist Richard Dawkins, Man Booker prize-winning author Margaret Atwood, Reverend Richard Coles, and poet and descendant of Charles Darwin Ruth Padel, join Martha Kearney to discuss the cultural and philosophical legacy of the seminal work On the Origin of Species.

Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species
Darwin's seminal work was published in November 1859

One hundred and fifty years after it was written - the theories of evolution and natural selection outlined in Darwin's On the Origin of Species are accepted as scientific fact, and are the foundation of a wealth of subsequent scientific advancement and discovery. But some believe his ideas are as controversial as they were when they were initially published.

Creationism is taught alongside evolution in some schools in the UK, and proponents of "intelligent design" are influential in the US. We'll discuss why his work still provokes such controversy.

We will hear why panellist Richard Dawkins felt the need to set out anew to make the case for Darwinian theories in his new book The Greatest Show on Earth. And we will hear from Margaret Atwood on her new novel - The Year of the Flood which meshes together evolutionary and religious ideas about the foundations of the natural world.


Creation stars Paul Bettany, as Darwin, and Jennifer Connolly.

The 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species has created the opportunity for a new biopic of his life. Creation, which stars Paul Bettany, focuses on the impact of the book's publication on Darwin's family life, and the loss of religious faith he underwent after the death of his beloved daughter.

Meanwhile Trevor Nunn and Kevin Spacey are reviving Inherit the Wind at the Old Vic. Jerome Lawrence and Robert E Lee's play was inspired by the famous Scopes Monkey Trial. In 1925 school teacher John Scopes was accused of violating a Tennessee state law after teaching evolution to his students.

We will hear why Nunn and Spacey feel the play still has contemporary resonance.

Inherit the Wind opens on 1 October.

Creation opens on 25 September.


After Darwin: Contemporary Expressions
Work by Tina Gonsalves is on show at After Darwin: Contemporary Expressions

Two current exhibitions explore the impact of Darwinian theory on cultural expression. After Darwin: Contemporary Expressions at the Natural History Museum in London exhibits the work of artists and writers, including panellist Ruth Padel, inspired by another of Darwin's books. The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals posited the theory that animals express emotion in a similar way to humans.

And Endless Forms at the Fitzwilliam Museum, in Cambridge, considers how Darwin's ideas penetrated the consciousness of the great artists of the era, inspiring visual representations of the struggle for existence, of natural attraction and sexual selection, and the origin and descent of man. It features paintings by such renowned artists as Landseer, Turner, Degas, Monet and Cézanne.

After Darwin: Contemporary Expressions runs at the Natural History Museum, in London, until 29 Nov 2009.

Endless Forms: Charles Darwin, Natural Science and the Visual Arts will be open at the Fitzwilliam Museum, in Cambridge, until 4 October 2009.

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