THE EVOS ILLUMINATE NOVEMBER 2009 The EvoS Illuminate

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Transcript of THE EVOS ILLUMINATE NOVEMBER 2009 The EvoS Illuminate

EvoSNewsVOLUME 1 PAGE 1
The EvoS Consortium is happy to launch our first issue of the EvoS Illuminate. In this twice yearly publication (May and November), we intend to keep EvoS Consortium members up to date on what is new with the consortium, journal, and specific EvoS Programs. Some recurring features include two spotlights: one on an EvoS faculty member, and one on an EvoS undergraduate involved in research. The EvoS Consortium is proud to boast more than 40 institutions involved at this time, a number that is sure to grow. These members continue to help the affiliate website grow. It now has teaching modules, with sample lectures, activities, and assignments from EvoS instructors. Members are free to use these resources in part or full, though we do ask that you credit your source. You may find the resources at (http://evostudies.org/ modules.html).
We are pleased to direct you to the first issue of EvoS Journal: The Journal of the Evolutionary Studies Consortium. Our first issue has four pieces - an introduction to the journal, an introduction to the inaugural EvoS programs, a first-hand article about finding employment as an Evolutionary Psychologist, and a piece about incorporating evolutionary theory into the science and teaching of molecular biology.
Please view the first issue at (http://evostudies.org/ vol1.html).
Incorporating the Arts & Humanities The EvoS Consortium is also pleased to provide an outlet for evolutionary theorists in the arts and humanities. One small way we are dong so is through our rotating logo feature. If you have an idea for an EvoS Consortium logo, we’d love to feature it on the website. More details are online at (http://evostudies.org/logo.html). We would like to formally invite scholars from the arts and humanities to share evolutionary themed work with EvoS Journal.
If you have visual art, poems, short stories, or music that incorporates an evolutionary perspective, EvoS Journal is one of the few academic outlets designed in part for your unique approach!
EvoS Blogs You’ve probably already noticed our amazing blogs written by EvoS Consortium scholars (http://evostudies.org/ blog). Please leave a comment when you read through the posts.
The EvoS Illuminate The Newsletter of the EvoS Consortium
What’s New in EvoS
The title of this newsletter is derived from the Jesuit Priest and scholar Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who stated that “Evolution is a light which illuminates all facts, a trajectory which all lines of though must follow this is what evolution is” (as cited by Dobzhansky, 1973).
EvoS Bloggers
Glenn Geher Joseph Graves Daniel Kruger
Tom Nolen Sarah Strout
William Tooke David Sloan Wilson
Gordon Gallup, Jr.; Glenn Geher; Glenn’s Research Students and their Friends after Gordon’s EvoS Seminar talk in Spring 2009 (SUNY New Paltz)
VOLUME 1 PAGE 2
RECONTEXTUALIZING EVOLUTION: BABA BRINKMAN PERFORMS AT SUNY NEW PALTZ, 11.16.09 BY: IAN MICHNA
I wasn’t initially planning on staying at Baba’s performance longer than ten minutes. In my mind, a guide to evolution through rap music seemed like another lame ploy from companies trying to deliver information in "trendy" ways to reach the youth. It turns out that this was not the case at all. Baba works for no company and is not a mindless rap drone spitting out choruses of prewritten material. Actually he is quite the opposite, a self-motivated, intelligent evolutionist with a talent for entertaining. His extensive rap knowledge combined with a rock-solid understanding of evolutionary concepts was a potent blend of information and entertainment. Between his raps he gave slam poetry-like performances explaining basic evolutionary concepts. From sexual selection, to warfare, it seemed like there was nothing he couldn’t evolutionarily explain through the vehicle of rap music and culture.
Some of the statistics I found most interesting that he presented that night were the ones about homicide, from Daly and Wilson’s book Homicide. Baba went on to explain cultural problems such as teen pregnancy and high levels of
gang violence by evolutionary survival adaptations to the environment. In a nutshell, the riskier the environment, the riskier sexual and survival strategies would be employed. As he explained the core concept, he cued up the music video “Survival of the Fittest” by Mobb Deep, a tune that epitomizes East Coast gangsta rap from the 90’s. Between the dark morbid piano loop and clips of the rap duo snarling at the camera, the music video was one of the strangest backdrops for a white guy rapping about evolution. Even stranger--it worked! Throughout the entire night, Baba continued to take some of the most lyrically potent rap songs and completely recontextualize them, discussing the themes in an evolutionary light. I used to think these types of societal problems were just due to lack of education and opportunity, but never related them to the deeper evolutionary side of the problem. At the end of the performance I could see how evolution wasn’t a detractor from other academic disciplines, but rather, something that could work harmoniously with them--with or without rap music.
RACHAEL CARMEN IS A GRADUATE AT SUNY NEW PALTZ, AND AS AN UNDERGRADUATE WAS THE FIRST STUDENT TO SIGN UP FOR THE NEW PALTZ EVOS PROGRAM IN 2007. SHE DOES RESEARCH ON HUMOR UNDER THE ADVISEMENT OF CORWIN SENKO AND GLENN GEHER.
[EN=EVOS NEWSLETTER; RC=RACHAEL CARMEN].
EN: What has been your favorite course in school so far?
RC: The best courses were definitely Evolutionary Studies courses, but I signed up for the EvoS program because I loved everything about it so pretty much every class was my “favorite”. My top three: Evolutionary Psychology with Glenn Geher (Psychology), Seminar in Psychology (Love and Sex) with Alice Andrews (Psychology), and Human Evolution with Ken Nystrom (Anthropology). Intro to Animal Life with Michael Boms (Biology) was a very close 4th.
EN: What is your favorite part of the EvoS Program?
RC: There are so many parts of the EvoS program that are amazing, but I would have to say my favorite is the Evolutionary Studies Seminar series. The seminar lets students from various academic backgrounds get a common understanding of evolutionary theory in addition to introducing them to new ideas and current research studies…I learned not only about Psychology (my major) but Biology, Anthropology, and Geology.
EN: Please give us a summary of the research you are doing at New Paltz, including how it is infor med by evolutionary theory.
RC: I am in the process of conducting research on how humor styles affect mate selection… [I am interested in] two specific types: Self-Deprecating (making
fun of oneself) and Other-Deprecating (making fun of others)… Humor itself is considered a “fitness indicator”, meaning that when people effectively use humor, it is thought to be indicative of their genetic fitness…I also wanted to see if women’s ovulatory cycles had any effect on humor and mate preference.
SPOTLIGHT ON AN EVOS STUDENT
THE EVOS ILLUMINATE NOVEMBER 2009
VOLUME 1 PAGE 3
JENNIFER WALDO IS AN ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF BIOLOGY AT SUNY NEW PALTZ. SHE IS PART OF THE EVOLUTIONARY STUDIES MINOR, CREATED IN 2007, AND A CO-PI ON THE NSF GRANT, “EXPANDING EVOLUTIONARY STUDIES IN AMERICAN HIGHER EDUCATION” (#0817337).
[EN=EVOS NEWLETTER; JW=JENNIFER WALDO].
EN: What do you think are the primary benefits for students from being part of an EvoS program?
JW: Exposure to exciting, modern research in disciplines other than their own major. I think a lot of colleges are structured to have a bunch of “intro” level classes that you have to get through in order to understand enough of the vocab/ concepts necessary to fully appreciate work that is occurring in the field today. This means that if you are interested in exploring other fields, there is a big impediment to doing so…..and the intro level courses are often more historical than modern in their approach. With the EvoS seminar series, in particular, students can see the type of research going on by real people, now. Because of the evolutionary framework in all of the work, they have a way to grasp on without necessarily becoming experts in the jargon of the field. I think this realization has to be empowering to students.
EN: What would you say are the primary benefits to faculty from being part of an EvoS program?
JW: Pretty much the same as for the students. I’ve learned a lot from the seminars and even more from just chatting with faculty and students from other departments. Even at a small school like ours, it is easy to hunker down in this job and focus just on teaching/advising/research/just keeping your head above water. Being a part of EvoS has “forced” me to encounter new material, or just think about things
differently. We all know that this is important, but EvoS is a way for me to actually do it.
EN: Please give an example of a recent research project you’ve done, and explain how evolutionary theory informs your research.
JW: I am a biologist that tries to understand things that go on inside of cells. I could be called (accurately, even) a cell biologist, molecular biologist, geneticist, biochemist, or structural
biologist. Since all cells have a common ancestor, a lot of the machines that do the work inside of the cell are pretty much the same, regardless of the organism. So, by studying fundamental biological processes in one organism, you can generate knowledge that can be applied to others. Also, uncovering differences between organisms can point to adaptations that arose and provided a selective advantage.
So, I study mitosis—that’s the process by which a cell divides up its genetic material prior to cell division. It’s critically important that the cell does this correctly, or else the two cells that arise will be genetically different than the original cell.
SPOTLIGHT ON AN EVOS FACULTY MEMBER
[We are] planning on collecting data from women (which includes three levels – ovulating, not ovulating, and women on oral contraceptives) and men, regardless of each participant’s sexual preference. Participants will take the study online…and will hear two different audio clips – one self-deprecating, and one other-deprecating clip – and then will be asked to rate the person in the clip on numerous dimensions… My hypothesis is that, in general, women will prefer self-deprecating humor, but when they are in their peak fertility days, they will tend to prefer more masculine displays, or rather, other-deprecating humor.
EN: Has evolutionary theory changed how you think about the world?
RC: Yes, it has changed how I think about the world in every way. It gives me a persistently inquisitive mind in all aspects of my life. I am constantly looking at the world through an evolutionary lens and questioning the reasoning behind specific types of behavior. Despite what some think, evolution has a lot to do with how we behave the way we do. I personally think evolutionary theory is one of the most important things a person can learn—it can truly change your life.
I personally think evolutionary theory is one of the most important things a person can learn—it can truly change your life.
-Rachel Carmen, EvoS Student, SUNY New Paltz
THE EVOS ILLUMINATE NOVEMBER 2009
VOLUME 1 PAGE 4
There is a ten-protein machine that works to separate chromosomes in dividing cells. There have only been experiments done to address how this complex works in two different types of yeast. However, there is a technical problem in studying how this protein complex works— scientists cannot produce the ten individual proteins separate from each other. So, one of my recent projects has been to study this complex in a third species of yeast, and it turns out that at least some of the ten proteins in this species are capable of being produced and studied individually. So, the inability to study the individual proteins is a technical problem, and I am using the variation present as a result of evolution, as a way of overcoming this technical problem. Now that I have the individual proteins, I can start to ask questions about how they work alone and together that are not possible in the other two more widely studied yeasts.
EN: What is your favorite course to teach, and why?
JW: I really only teach two courses—genetics and cell biology. Both are mid-level biology courses. I don’t really prefer one over the other…..they are both equally challenging for me to teach. I’m not to the point where I
have either course “in the bag”. I’m constantly changing how and what I teach to try to make it better for the students. As our friend Baba says, performance—feedback—revision. So, my courses are always evolving (hee hee).
I have a non-science-majors cancer biology course that I taught once and really would love to teach more regularly. I’m pretty sure that we need to do a much much much better job educating non-scientists about science. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be enough of a priority at the present.
EN: James Lipton always ends Inside the Actor’s Studio with the question “If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?” If Heaven exists, what would you like to ask Darwin when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
JW: I’m going full-bore geek here. I’d want to talk to Darwin about what/how much he knew about Mendel’s work. From what I’ve read, there are differing accounts about how aware they were of each other, and I’d just be curious to know what the real story is.
Because of the evolutionary framework in all of the work, they have a way to grasp on without necessarily becoming experts in the jargon of the field. I think this realization has to be empowering to students.
-Jennifer Waldo, EvoS Faculty, SUNY New Paltz
EvoS Journal Special Issue: Call for Papers
EvoS Journal is planning a special issue on Evolutionary Theory in the Humanities. If you have a manuscript in mind about an educational experience, the importance of evolutionary theory for teaching in your field, or a pedagogical technique, please submit your manuscript using the guidelines at (http://evostudies.org/ submissions.html). If you have an idea for a book review related to Evolution in the Humanities, please email Rose at (evostudies@gmail.com). And for students and faculty – if you have a project that incorporates evolutionary theory with one of the Humanities, please consider submitting it to EvoS Journal at (http://evostudies.org/submissions.html). Fiction, poetry, and other relevant works are welcome too.
VOLUME 1 PAGE 5
12.4.09 Location: Binghamton University Evolutionary Theory: Toward an Extended Synthesis? Massimo Piglucci
[For a full list of BUs Seminar Series, visit http:// evolution.binghamton.edu/ evos/seminars/fall-2009/]
2.8.10 Location: SUNY New Paltz Darwin Day, featuring Darwin: Discovering the Tree of Life Niles Eldridge
2.22.10 Location: SUNY New Paltz Mutualists, Pathogens, and the Evolution of Sex in Wild Garlic Margaret Bonsheim
Have your own EvoS Events to share? Please send word to evostudies@gmail.com
The Word from EvoS Members
NorthEastern Evolutionary Psychology Society: Call for Papers
Announcing the fourth Annual Meeting of the NorthEastern Evolutionary Psychology Society, Friday, March 26th, through Sunday, March 28th, 2010. The 2010 Meeting will be hosted by Dr. Glenn Geher and his students at the State University of New York at New Paltz.
We are pleased to announce that the keynote speakers will be Dr. Marlene Zuk of the Department of Biology at the University of California (Riverside), and Dr. Richard Wrangham of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. The deadline for abstract submission is January 5th, 2010. Please encourage your friends, students, and colleagues to participate.
For more information, please visit http:// www.neepsociety.org
This newsletter was written by Rosemarie Sokol Chang with the exception of the special musical piece by Ian Michna. Special thanks to Jennifer Waldo and Rachael Carmen for being the first EvoS members to be spotlighted in this newsletter. Please send any comments to evostudies@gmail.com