On the two hundredth anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth his theories published as On the Origin of Species are still relevant. Several experts have already chimed in, but here are some additional voices on evolution and Darwin.
Director of Creation, new film about Charles Darwin
"The more I learned about this man, who sat for 25 years on the single most important idea in the history of thought out of love for his devout wife, the more interested I became in the idea of a movie. I never thought Darwin's ideas were any more controversial than Newton's or Galileo's. But clearly there are some out there that will soon want us to be teaching that the sun rotates round the earth. I can't say all this is what made me want to make this film. But it sure as hell makes me glad I did."
Marcus Du Sautoy
Professor of mathematics and Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford
"Darwin's ideas help confirm why we are all programmed to do mathematics. It is only those who can count, recognize symmetry and judge distances who survived the evolutionary battle. The Origin of Species was published 150 years ago at the same time as one of the most fundamental papers in mathematics. Riemann's seminal paper published in 1859 proposes a revolutionary solution to explain prime numbers, the atoms of arithmetic. It is as important to my subject as Darwin's publication was for biology."
Darwinian philosopher, London School of Economics
"Still? More than ever. Because today's Darwinism adopts the genes'-eye view of their immortal journey down the generations — and thereby fathoms the depths of Darwin's profound insight. Darwin captured the only way that apparent design can arise without a designer: relentless selection on random variation. Darwinism is the key to understanding all living things — not least, ourselves. It is on the brink of transforming the social sciences — and, with that, social affairs, policy-making and our view of our place in the world."
Professor of molecular biology at MIT and Director of the Massachusetts Darwin Bicentennial Project
"He was one of the most important scientists in the past 200 years. The living world is enormously diverse, and up until Darwin's time, there was no scientific way to understand either the origin of all these creatures or the relationship between them. Having a real grasp of evolutionary theory is absolutely critical in medical research. Darwin is alive and even more valuable today when the application of biomedical research leads to the prospect of new treatments of difficult human disease like Alzheimer's and heart disease."
CEO, marketing firm Starcom MediaVest
"For our industry, survival of the fittest will go to the media industry players who can adapt the fastest to revolutionary change. Consumers embraced technology to give them control over all the content they chose to consume. Marketers have had to adapt to empowered, evasive consumers. The 'fittest' media and marketing companies have developed advantages. It's not exactly natural selection, but it ultimately results in functional advantages that help clients navigate the new landscape."
Executive director of product development, organic cosmetics brand Origins
"'Darwinism' was very much a part of the adaptogenic story of Rhodiola used in our Youthtopia collection. I like to think this is the one case where "stress" is a good thing because when you think about the Plant Kingdom the stresses of the ever-changing world have created plant species that have adapted to survive. This has given rise to plant species with great efficiency, probably more so then anything man could have engineered. We like to think that no one can 'out-innovate' Mother Nature."
Venture capitalist, Emergence Capital Partners
"There are correlations between Darwin's theory and innovation. While the big and strong tend to survive, challenging times like these tend to disrupt the status quo. Usually it is the small, agile competitors that find ways to take advantage. Ten years ago, people didn't see the need for Google because we already had Yahoo! In the end, Google prevailed not only because their search algorithm was superior — but because it was able to constantly evolve. Companies that don't continue to lead innovation will ultimately fall victim to two guys in a garage."
Venture capitalist, Norwest Venture Partners
"If we apply Darwin's theories to business, it would mean that certain traits that provide for an advantage against competitors become more prevalent over time. Companies that provide a good working environment retain employees better and improve that company's ability to operate. Companies that mistreat employees cost them efficiency and would operate at a disadvantage. This process should (and hopefully has) spread, as companies learn to 'inherit' this advantage that they saw or experienced in other companies."
A version of this article appeared in the February 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.