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Debate Videos
Economic Growth:
Bane or Boon?
Economic Growth: Bane or Boon? 
Head to head debate between Daniel Ben-Ami and Jonathon Porritt
Limits to Growth
Limits to Growth debate with Daniel Ben-Ami, 
Richard Dyer and Phil O'Keefe, August 2010
Darwinism without Darwinitis
Discussion following key note talk by Raymond Tallis on Darwinism without Darwinitis
Human Nature Debate
Rita Carter, Caspar Hewett, Thomas Pink and Kevin Yuill: 
The Great Human Nature Debate
Science & Human Nature
What can science tell us about human nature?
Bruce Charlton, Pauline Hadaway and Igor Aleksander

Previous Contributors to the Great Debate

Matt Ridley (photo by John  Watson)
Matt Ridley

Matt Ridley did research in zoology at Oxford before becoming a journalist. He worked for The Economist for eight years and has been a columnist for the Sunday Telegraph and Daily Telegraph since 1993. His books have sold over 800,000 copies, been translated into 27 languages and been short-listed for six literary prizes. In 2004 he won the National Academies Book Award from the US National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine for Nature Via Nurture: Genes, Experience and What Makes Us Human. In 2007 he won the Davis Prize from the US History of Science Society for Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code.

He is married to the neuroscientist Professor Anya Hurlbert. They have two children and live at Blagdon near Newcastle upon Tyne.

Matt Ridley was on the panel at Determined to Survive? The Great Debate - Freedom, Determinism and the Gene in June 2000.


The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves by Matt Ridley
The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

Matt Ridley turns from investigating human nature to investigating human progress. In The Rational Optimist Ridley offers a counterblast to the prevailing pessimism of our age, and proves, however much we like to think to the contrary, that things are getting better.

Over 10,000 years ago there were fewer than 10 million people on the planet. Today there are more than 6 billion, 99 per cent of whom are better fed, better sheltered, better entertained and better protected against disease than their Stone Age ancestors.

The availability of almost everything a person could want or need has been going erratically upwards for 10,000 years and has rapidly accelerated over the last 200 years: calories; vitamins; clean water; machines; privacy; the means to travel faster than we can run, and the ability to communicate over longer distances than we can shout. Yet, bizarrely, however much things improve from the way they were before, people still cling to the belief that the future will be nothing but disastrous.

In this original, optimistic book, Matt Ridley puts forward his surprisingly simple answer to how humans progress, arguing that we progress when we trade and we only really trade productively when we trust each other.

The Rational Optimist will do for economics what Genome did for genomics and will show that the answer to our problems, imagined or real, is to keep on doing what we've been doing for 10,000 years – to keep on changing.

Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code
Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code

Francis Crick, who died at the age of eighty-eight in 2004, discovered, together with James Watson, the structure of DNA - an achievement that would revolutionise science and secure their place in history. In this book Matt Ridley discusses the life of the late scientist.

Nature via Nurture
Nature Via Nurture: Genes, Experience and What Makes Us Human

In February 2001 it was announced that the genome contains not 100,000 genes as originally expected but only 30,000. This startling revision led some scientists to conclude that there are simply not enough human genes to account for all the different ways people behave: we must be made by nurture, not nature. Yet again biology was to be stretched on the Procrustean bed of nature-nurture debate.

Acclaimed science writer Matt Ridley argues that the emerging truth is far more interesting than this myth. Nurture depends on genes too, and genes need nurture. Genes not only predetermine the broad structure of the brain, they also absorb formative experiences, react to social cues and even run memory. They are consequences as well as causes of the will.

Published fifty years after the discovery of the double helix of DNA, Nature via Nurture chronicles a new revolution in our understanding of genes. Ridley recounts the hundred years' war between the partisans of nature and nurture to explain how this paradoxical creature, the human being, can be simultaneously free-willed and motivated by instinct and culture. Nature via Nurture is an enthralling, up-to-the-minute account of how genes build brains to absorb experiences.

Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters

In Genome, Matt Ridley examines in his inimitable style the mapping of the human genome. He describes what the genome is, how it works, and examines how this new knowledge will affect medicine, the pharmaceutical industry, business, politics and our lives. Each chapter is devoted to one of the 23 human chromosomes, telling the story of a particular gene on that chromosome and how it affects the individual who bears it. Examining the most important scientific achievement since the splitting of the atom, Genome makes a useful and entertaining contribution to understanding who we humans are and where we are going.

The Origins of Virtue
The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation

In The Origins of Virtue Matt Ridley applies an evolutionary perspective to explaining the roots of trust, cooperation and virtue. He argues that humans have cooperative instincts which evolved as part of our natural selfish behaviour; by exchanging favours our ancestors were able to benefit themselves as well as others. Ridley shows us how breakthroughs in computer programming, microbiology, and economics give us new insights into how and why we relate to each other in the ways we do.

The Red Queen
The Red Queen : Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature

In the title of this book, Matt Ridley refers to the Red Queen from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, who has to keep running to stand still; he demonstrates why sex has proved to be a successful evolutionary strategy for outwitting ever-evolving parasites and examines the key role played by sexual selection in human evolution.

Useful Links books by Matt Ridley

Genes, Experience and What Makes Us Human; Gill Norman reviews Matt Ridley’s lecture given as part of the first Newcastle Science Festival, International Centre for Life, 14 April 2003.

We've never had it so good - and it's all thanks to science by Matt Ridley, Education Guardian, Thursday April 3, 2003

Review of Nature Via Nurture, The Observer, Sunday 30 March 30 2003

Review of Nature Via Nurture by Colin Tudge, The Independent, 29 March 2003

Natural gold dust Review of Nature Via Nurture by Dylan Evans

The Storefront Genome Matt Ridley lecture at UCLA Center for Society, the Individual and Genetics James West Alumni Center - UCLA Campus

Lecture at Royal Institution of Great Britain

Nature Via Nurture, Fourth Estate

Biography of Matt Ridley

Fourth Estate website

The Nature vs. Nurture Debate

Matt White Ridley

Future of Life website

Human Behavior and Evolution Society (HBES)

Written in the genes by Johnjoe McFadden, The Guardian Monday March 31, 2003

Can Selfishness Save the Environment? by Matt Ridley and Bobbi S. Low

Concentration is key: by Matt Ridley, Spiked-online science debates

Online NewsHour Ray Suarez talks with author Matt Ridley about his book Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters.

Unraveling the genome March, 2000

Barnes and Noble: review of Genome

Not an Inkling review of Genome by Jerry Coyne

Ape and Essence review of Genome by Daniel J. Kevles

National Genetics Society review of Genome A Three-Billion-Year Memoir

Human Genetics, William Sheridan

The Independent Review: review of The Origins of Virtue

Science News Books: The Origins of Virtue

Review of The Red Queen

The Motley Fool's Jester Award March 2000

Review of The Red Queen by Helga

Sex is for combating parasites

BBC News 'Back to the Future': Interview with Matt Ridley

The virtue of human universals andcooperation : A review essay of Matt Ridley's The Origins of Virtue

Our relentless drive to cooperate by Elizabeth Brubaker: review of The Origins of Virtue

Summary of The Red Queen by Michael C. McGoodwin

What's Next in Biotech An interview with Matt Ridley, by Tom Gardner February 27, 2001

In genes might we trust? Jay Tolson reviews Matt Ridley

'The Meanings of Darwinism: Then and Now?'

Down to Earth II: Combating Environmental Myths by Matt Ridley reviewed by Nigel Meek

The Nationalisation of Land by Matt Ridley

Genomics News Wire

Evolutionary Psychology: Introduction to the Field

10 Good reasons to be skeptical of evolutionary psychology by Tom Stafford, Sheffield University

The Human Nature Review books by Matt Ridley

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