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Courses provided by Dr Robert Callow:  Please click on appropriate image for further details


Tanagra darwini by John GouldDarwin, Dawkins and Divinity - The Conflict between Science and Religion/R.S. Callow
The aims of this course are to explore the evidence and reasoning behind the theory of evolution, as advanced by Charles Darwin, and to consider their implications for our understanding of science and religion, as outlined by Richard Dawkins. Each evening session will begin with a presentation describing the evidence and reasoning behind a scientific topic. It will be followed by a debate on some aspect of the conflict between science and religion. Your participation will be encouraged. We shall begin with the background to the Enlightenment, so that we can judge Darwin’s ideas in the  context of their time. We shall finish with recent scientific developments.





Charles Darwin 1840 by George Richmond The Life and Work of Charles Darwin/ R.S. Callow
Charles Darwin was one of the most famous scientists of the modern era. His theory of evolution by natural selection is widely accepted amongst scientists who continue to gather evidence in its support.  Nevertheless its social and moral implications remain disturbing and controversial. By contrast, Darwin himself was a genial, caring friend and father and a pillar of Victorian respectability. He shied away from controversy, especially in public. This course will probe the nature of the man and consider how it influenced his approach to the gathering and interpretation of evidence.





Endeavour Replica ~ Point Hicks NSWVoyages of Biological Discovery/R.S. Callow
From the sixteenth century onwards, naturalists began to accompany maritime explorers and to return to Europe with ever greater collections of specimens of animals and plants. These collections astounded those back home. They provided a growing challenge to orthodox religion and a great stimulus to scientific understanding. In addition, some of the specimens proved of great commercial value. This course will explore the way in which this story unfolded, from maritime experience to philosophical deduction and commercial exploitation. It will be supported by illustrated lectures and detailed notes.






Primula vulgaris Primrose ~ Pin-eyed PINPrinciples of Genetics/R.S. Callow
Genetics is the discipline devoted to the investigation of heredity and variation. In less than one hundred and fifty years, it has transformed our understanding of the origin and continuity of life and enabled us to support human society: through improvements in agriculture, forensics and medicine. Principles of Genetics have been derived from four areas of enquiry: (i) patterns of inheritance, (ii) measures of resemblance, (iii) observations of chromosomal behaviour and (iv) molecular analysis of the organisation of the genetic code. We shall examine each of these areas in turn. Emphasis will be given to interpretation of evidence and inferences to be drawn from it. No previous knowledge will be assumed and there will be ample opportunity for discussion. Detailed course notes will be provided.


Brassica oleracea CultivarsGenetically Modified Food - What's the Gripe?/R.S. Callow
The aims of this course are to examine the modes of genetic modification and to explore the implications of genetically modified food for human society. Each session will begin with a presentation, describing the evidence and reasoning behind a scientific topic. It will be followed by a discussion of topical issues relevant to the talk. Your participation will be encouraged. We shall begin with an examination of the genetic material and its role in reproduction, inheritance and development. We shall then consider how this material has and may be modified and how the modification of our food has shaped human history and is likely to determine human survival.



Lolium perenne at anthesisRushes, Sedges and Grasses/R.S. Callow
Rushes, sedges and grasses resemble each other in being herbaceous plants with linear leaves and small wind-pollinated flowers. The resemblance is sufficient to have given rise to erroneous common names; both ‘cotton-grass’ and ‘club-rush’ are sedges! Close inspection shows the resemblance to be superficial. This day-school will explore the distinctions between these three families and the pathways of divergence within each of them. It will also provide guidance in identification. The course will consist of illustrated talks, practical demonstrations and hands-on experience. It will be supported by detailed notes.








Primula vulgaris PINThe Genetics of Garden Plants/R.S. Callow
Do you want to get more fun out of the plants in your garden, rather than the patios and furniture? Gardens are an endless source of fascination and delight but how many people appreciate their role in human understanding or their potential for experimental breeding? The science of Genetics which investigates patterns of heredity and variation began with Mendel’s study of Garden Peas. It now permeates all aspects of human life and all areas of the garden: from the vegetable patch to the lawn and from the orchard to the ornamental beds. This short course will examine how this remarkable situation came about and how it benefits the gardener. It will be supported by illustrated lectures and detailed notes.




Myosostis alpestris on Ben LawersIdentification of Highland Plants/R.S. Callow
If you wish to be able to confidently identify a plant, without its picture, this course is for you. Pictures can be misleading and are not always available. Formal identification involves keys and comparison with the detailed description in a Flora. The evolutionary basis of classification will be described. Identification will be demonstrated in the laboratory and diagnostic features will be examined, using hand lenses or microscopes as necessary. A series of short excursions will allow these skills to be put into practice in the field. A printed manual is provided.




Morrone Birkwood ~ BraemarPlant Communities of the Scottish Highlands/R.S. Callow
The Scottish Highlands are home to important plant communities, each characteristic of a particular habitat and key combination of species. Some are subject to human interference whilst others are as near to being “natural” as any in Europe. Each community tells its own story, of history and environment. This course provides an opportunity to visit some of the finest botanical sites in Britain with the added bonus of being amongst the lochs and mountains of Perthshire in mid-summer. Some familiarity with our native plants would be an asset. Daytime excursions will be supplemented with a series of illustrated evening lectures and a printed manual. A modest level of fitness is required, sufficient to climb a mountain but only at a steady “botanical” rate.