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Language, Laughter, Religion, Music, Dance, Theater, and the Visual Arts--Oh My!

Dr. David Sloan Wilson, Binghamton University
Monday, November 12
5:15 pm, LH 14


About the seminar

My talk expands upon the theme of language presented by Rolf Quam earlier in the semester. While language has clear functional utility, many other quintessential human attributes do not. It's easy to understand why we make bowls, but why do we decorate them? It's easy to understand why we walk and talk, but why do we dance and make music? And why do we believe in supernatural agents who command us to do such things as sacrifice our children to them, as in the Biblical story of Abraham?
A unified explanation for these disparate phenomena is starting to emerge that is centered around the group as a unit of selection in human genetic and cultural evolution. This explanation promises to resolve the "Two Culture" problem identified by C.P. Snow in the 1950's and restore the centrality and importance of the humanities in academia, which currently appears to be threatened by the sciences.

Reading: The One Culture: Four New Books Indicate That the Barrier Between Science and the Humanities is At Last Breaking Down:


About the speaker

David Sloan Wilson is SUNY Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University. He applies evolutionary theory to all aspects of humanity in addition to the rest of life, both in his own research and as director of EvoS, a unique campus-wide evolutionary studies program that recently received NSF funding to expand into a nationwide consortium. His books include;

Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society,

Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives,

The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time, and

Does Altruism Exist? Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others

Last Updated: 12/9/19