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Do we have evolution right? Book launch: Purpose and Desire by J Scott Turner

Book Launch

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Purpose and Desire by J Scott Turner asks the question: do we have evolution right?

STIAS Fellow J Scott Turner will be in discussion with Jannie Hofmeyr, distinguished professor of biochemistry and biocomplexity at Stellenbosch University

Turner builds on the thought of Claude Bernard, the 19th century French physiologist who was a contemporary of Charles Darwin, and was the founder of the modern science of experimental physiology. Bernard’s signature concept of homeostasis, properly understood, is the starting point for a radical critique of our modern understanding of adaptation and evolution.

“Mostly, the book is a virtuosic, if revisionist, history of evolutionary thought that rehabilitates traditionally scorned figures (Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, Georges Cuvier), reinterprets celebrated 19th-century French physiologist Claude Bernard’s ideas on homeostasis, and delivers admiring portraits of the geniuses of modern evolutionary ideas (Thomas Hunt Morgan, Ronald Fisher, Sewall Wright, J.B.S. Haldane) without backing down from Turner’s insistence that they missed something. … An unsettling but highly thought-provoking book.”

Kirkus Review

All welcome. The discussion will be followed by a cocktail reception. Please RSVP to Nel-Mari Loock at [email protected] or tel. 021 808 2652 by Thursday 17 August 2017.

Scott Turner, professor of biology at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry of the State University of New York is a 2017 STIAS Fellow and working on a project titled Life in the Transients. His Fellows’ Seminar dealt with Evolution as a cognitive phenomenon.

J. Scott Turner. Purpose and Desire. What Makes Something “Alive” and Why Modern Darwinism Has Failed to Explain It. HarperOne. Publication Date 12 September 2017. Available for Pre-sale on

Date and time

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

17:30 – 19:00​

All times are in SAST (UTC+2)


No location.

Related to this event




This project will explore a new theory of adaptation that I have termed Life in the Transients (LIT). In a nutshell, LIT argues that the theory of open thermodynamic systems has significant implications...


Journal Article

Soar, R., Amador, G., Bardunias, P., and Turner, J. Scott. 2019. Moisture gradients form a vapor cycle within the viscous boundary layer as an organizing principle to worker termites. Insectes Sociaux, 66(2), 193–209.


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