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Richard Dawkins on ‘Cuckoos and The History of Life’


Cuckoos and The History of Life

Professor Richard Dawkins uses the example of cuckoos to explain evolution and biology more generally. Professor Dawkins speaks of the “evolutionary arms race” between cuckoos and their hosts, building on some of the work of Nick Davies. Notably, cuckoo birds do not build their own nests, which is a phenomenon exhibited by a number of species, and does not feed their young. Instead, they drop their eggs in the nest of another bird, replacing an existing egg of that nest. The acts of the cuckoo and their host allow broader concepts and arguments to be introduced, such as a notion that birds do not know what they are doing or why they are doing particular things.

In the second half of the lecture, Professor Dawkins moves on to evolution more broadly and the history of life, starting at “the end” (humans) and moving backward through time.