Genetic Mutation

Listen in pop-out player

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss mutation in genetics and evolution. When lying mortally ill with cancer, the British geneticist J.B.S. Haldane penned the following lines: Cancer's a Funny Thing:I wish I had the voice of HomerTo sing of rectal carcinoma,Which kills a lot more chaps, in fact,Than were bumped off when Troy was sacked...Haldane knew better than most that many cancers, and many other diseases, are caused by genetic mutation. A mutation is an error in reproduction between one generation and the next as the copying mechanism that allows you to inherit your parent’s genes goes awry. Mutations are almost always bad news for the organism that suffers them and yet mutation is also a giver of life. Without it there would be no natural selection, no evolution and, arguably, no life on this planet. It’s not unreasonable to see life itself as a mutation and to understand this may also hold the key to aging and disease. It is, in the Darwinian view of life, the raw material of evolution.With Steve Jones, Professor of Genetics in the Galton Laboratory, University College London; Adrian Woolfson, lectures in Medicine at Cambridge University; Linda Partridge, Weldon Professor of Biometry at University College LondonTags

Release date:

Available now

45 minutes

Last on

Thu 6 Dec 2007 21:30

Featured in...

Could you be a muse?

Karl Lagerfeld and Ines de la Fressange in Paris, France (1985).

Read our musing on the modern muse.

The In Our Time Quiz

Melvyn Bragg

Have you been listening? Test yourself with our quiz of 2015.

A new way to find programmes

Free Will

We've created a new way to search through the programmes and would like your help.

In Our Time Downloads


Every episode of In Our Time - available to download to listen to when & where you want.

Watch animations from A History of Ideas

The Libet Experiment

Explore some big questions about how we live today.