Professor Steve Jones

Professor of Genetics, science writer and broadcaster, and Patron of the BHA

Steve Jones was born in 1944 in Aberystwyth, Wales, and has degrees from the University of Edinburgh and University of Chicago. Much of his academic research has been concerned with snails and the light their anatomy can shed on biodiversity and genetics. He is professor of genetics at Galton laboratory of University College London, and has had visiting posts at Harvard University, the University of Chicago, the University of California at Davis, University of Botswana, Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone, and Flinders University in Adelaide.

Steve Jones is probably best known to the general public as a regular broadcaster and writer of popular books on scientific issues. He gave the 1991 Reith Lecture on “The Language of the Genes“, has written and presented a Radio 3 series on science and the arts, “Blue Skies”, and a TV series on human genetics, “In the Blood”. He also appears on other radio and TV programmes, such as Today, Question Time, Late Review and Newsnight , and writes a regular column in The Daily Telegraph, “View from the Lab“.

His many books include Genetics for Beginners (Icon Books), The Language of the Genes(HarperCollins), In The Blood (HarperCollins), Almost like a Whale: The Origin of Species Updated(Anchor Books), Y: the Descent of Men (Little, Brown), and (LittleBrown). If you buy his books at Amazon.co.uk through this link a small commission will go to the BHA.

Steve Jones has been a staunch and outspoken defender of science against the “anti-science” of creationism. In a 2006 BBC Radio Ulster interview he proposed that creationists should be disallowed from being medical doctors because “all of its [creationism’s] claims fly in the face of the whole of science” and claimed that no serious biologist could believe in Biblical Creation. You can listen to his Royal Society lecture “ Why creationism is wrong and evolution is right” here. When asked in “You ask the questions” (The Independent, April 2007) “Why do more people believe in creationism than in evolution?” his reply was:

As Dr Johnson said in self-defence after being caught out with an error in his Dictionary ‘Ignorance, madam, pure ignorance’. There are plenty of people out there intent on putting out their own lies about how life emerged but when an audience is given the simple facts of biology they tend to believe them and the brainwashers are reduced to bleating about the Big Bang. Of course, in plenty of British schools nowadays, the kids never get that chance.

At the Hay Festival in 2006, reported in The Guardian here, he described his frustration when trying to debate with religious opponents: “I don’t engage with creationists directly,” he said, saying that, when he had, they had frequently quoted him out of context or accused him of lying. “If somebody has decided to believe something – whatever the evidence – then there is nothing you can do about it.”

He was one of the signatories to a letter supporting a holiday on Charles’ Darwin’s birthday, published in The Times on February 12, 2003, and also sent to the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary. In April 2007 he chaired the BHA Voltaire Lecture “Are religion and science incompatible?”, given by Lord Taverne, and in 2009 he gave the first ever BHA annual Holyoake Lecture in Manchester, “Is Human Evolution Over?”.  In July 2009 he joined other eminent scientists and educators calling for vital changes to the proposed science curriculum for primary schools in England in a letter to the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families.

His many awards include: the Rhone-Poulenc book prize and the Yorkshire Post first book prize in 1994; the Royal Society Faraday Medal for public understanding of science in 1997; the BP Natural World Book Prize in 1999 and 2000; the Institute of Biology Charter Medal in 2002; and the Irwin Prize for Secularist of the Year in 2006.

See also
Professor Steve Jones homepage at UCL
Professor Steve Jones biography at Edge.org
Steve Jones: A highly original species, a 2000 interview in The Guardian
Steve Jones: Is human evolution finally over?, a 2002 interview in The Observer