September 30, 2009

Margo Wilson (1942 - 2009)

I recently learned over the weekend, through the Human Behavior and Evolution Society email listserv, that Professor Margo Wilson died due to complications with lymphoma. This is very sad news.

Margo Wilson was a professor at McMaster University in Canada. And she was a pioneer in the field of evolutionary psychology, along with her longtime collaborator, Martin Daly. She was a past president of HBES and founding editor of the society's flagship journal, Evolution and Human Behavior. And she was also a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Dr. Wilson might be best known for her classic work on homicide, in collaboration with Daly. Their influential book on the topic analyzes historical and anthropological data from around the world through an evolutionary framework. They argued that the most common type of homicide (that between two conflicting young men who know each other) is a by-product of behavior that is selectively advantageous for controlling the reproductive behavior of women.

She has also done some interesting work on the "Cinderella effect." The Cinderella effect describes phenomena wherein step-parents mistreat their step-children at much higher rates than their mistreatment of their own genetic offspring. This effect is robust across cultures and stays strong, even controlling for socioeconomic factors. For instance, they found that children in the UK were 100 times more likely to be beaten by stepfathers than by genetic fathers.

She has done great work in the field, and has helped build a strong foundation on which evolutionary psychology could grow, and her death is a significant loss to the field.

September 21, 2009

Darwin Lectures at UK!

Okay, I can't believe my wife beat me to it . . . well, on second thought, maybe I can.

Anyways, the University of Kentucky will be paying tribute to Darwin this October with a lecture series that's about a week long! Woo!

The Gaines Center of the Humanities is sponsoring this year's Bale Boone Symposium entitled: Science, Humanities, & Culture in the Wake of Darwin. There will be a host of great speakers, including Ken Miller, who I've heard talk before at a Darwin Day festival back in 2005 when I was still at VCU. I think that he does an excellent job of discussing the fact of evolution, and I will be glad to get to hear him again. Another talk that I think will be quite interesting is from Jonathan Gottschall (a professor of English at Washington and Jefferson College) entitled: Darwin in Wonderland: Evolution and the Science of Story. Looks like it'll be great fun!

All talks are within the student center at 6pm, are free, and open to the public! Here's a copy of the flyer for more details. My wife and I will be there, you should go too!

On a similar note, V. Betty Smocovitis, Biologist from the University of Florida, will be presenting a lecture titled Rhapsody on a Darwinian Theme: Darwin in Song and Musical Production this week! It will be on Thursday, Sep. 24 in the Lexmark Rm in the Adm. Bldg at 3:30 pm. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend this lecture, as I have to teach . . . :(

But you may want to go nonetheless!

Lastly, the IdeaFestival is happening this week in Louisville, KY. It starts on Tuesday and runs through Saturday. It's an event that happens in Louisville (I think every year, but I'm not sure) where great thinkers and innovators come to speak. I like to compare it a bit to the TED talks. Well, anyways, you can check out the agenda on their site. It looks like there will be some pretty good talks there too, so I encourage you to go, if you plan to be in Kentucky this week. Tickets are a little pricey, as it's much like a conference, but you can purchase tickets for individual events if you just wanted to see one or two of the talks. Check it out!