I’m doing some sort-of local (on the other side of the state, that is) talks in April, so my Minnesota pals will have an opportunity to stop by and argue with me. The first is on Sunday, 17 April, in the Rondo Library in St Paul, at 2pm. It’ll be a slightly updated version of a talk I gave a few times last year.
Bad Biology: How Evolutionary Psychology Corrupts Evolution
The most powerful and versatile tool in your toolbox is the adjustable wrench. Not only can it tighten and loosen both nuts and bolts of all sizes, but it also makes an excellent hammer, can be used to punch holes in objects, and it also performs as a serviceable canoe paddle.
If that lack of respect for tools makes you cringe, now you know how PZ Myers feels. Natural selection is one of the most powerful concepts in evolutionary biology, yet many people use it excessively and inappropriately as a kind of quasi-miraculous explanation for everything. Most biologists know better, though, and realize that there are many other forces operating on evolution.
The dangerous aspect of the abuse of natural selection is that it allows the naturalistic fallacy to run rampant. If selection inevitably optimizes everything, then whatever is must be for the best – so human nature must be exactly what allows us to survive. This attitude is used to justify the status quo, whether it’s racism, or the superiority of Western culture, or the inferiority of women. This can only be done by ignoring the multiple forces that drive evolutionary change.
Prof. Myers will be explain what these other forces are, and giving examples of the abuse of science to justify several fallacies: so-called “scientific” racism and evolutionary psychology. He’ll also discuss how lack of knowledge of basic evolutionary biology can lead professional scientists astray.
Yes! Let’s annoy the evolutionary psychologists some more! They deserve it.
Then, the next weekend on Saturday 23 April at 10am, I’ll be joining the West Metro Critical Thinking Club to talk science education for a while.
STEM and the liberal arts: How do we teach science?
There is a constant push to change education from an experience that broadens the mind to one that focuses students on a vocation. We’ve got universities hiring business people with no educational experience to make them more profitable, and people seriously questioning the value of disciplines like philosophy, psychology, sociology, or anything that others disparagingly call “soft” subjects. At the same time, there are advocates of reform who think algebra is useless, and that we waste too much time teaching mathematics that, they think, no one will ever use.
I’ll be presenting an interdisciplinary, liberal arts perspective on science education — we need all facets of human knowledge if we are to adequately comprehend our own narrower fields of interest. I’ll be interested in getting a discussion going about what attendees expect from a college education.
I’m not sure of the location just yet — somewhere near the Ridgedale Mall.
Come on by to either one or both!