Edward O. Wilson’s career has alternated between doing world-class work in specialized biological subjects—entomology, island biogeography, and ecology—and synthesizing ideas across the broadest spectrum of intellectual life. In 1975, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis opened the way toward the biological transformation that has now taken place in the social sciences. His followup book, On Human Nature (1978), won a Pulitzer. In Genes, Mind, and Culture: The Co-Evolutionary Process (1981), co-authored with Charles Lumsden, he pioneered the concept of “gene-culture co-evolution,” which is now emerging as the central principle in specifically human evolution. In Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1998), he sounded the keynote theme of this conference: the idea that evolutionary biology encompasses the social sciences and the humanities and thus unifies knowledge about human behavior and culture. In recent years, he has taken a leading role in advancing a new paradigm shift in evolutionary biology: the ascendance of “multi-level selection.” His forthcoming book, The Social Conquest of Earth, integrates ideas from all this previous work.
Herb Gintis combines game theory, economics, and general biological theory to produce models of gene-culture co-evolution that can account for altruism and cooperative social behavior. The theme of the conference as a whole is sounded in the subtitle of Herb’s recent book The Bounds of Reason: Game Theory and the Unification of the Behavioral Sciences.
Henry Harpending started out as an anthropologist and, like John Hawks, has expanded into genetics. In The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution (co-authored with Gregory Cochran, 2010), Henry gets serious and specific about gene-culture co-evolution.
John Hawks’s weblog is the most frequently visited by anthropologists around the world: One reason for that attention is that John integrates genetics, paleoanthropology, and nascent cultural theory. John’s Human Evolution is forthcoming.
Michael Rose is an expert on the evolution of aging (The Long Tomorrow: How Advances in Evolutionary Biology Can Help Us Postpone Aging, 2005). He has also published major works in ecology, experimental evolution, adaptation, and the history of Darwinist thinking (Darwin’s Spectre, 1998).
Peter Turchin works at the interface between biological, mathematical, and social sciences. In War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires (2007), Peter uses mathematical biology and ecology to construct serious hypotheses about large-scale historical and political phenomena while also incorporating serious scholarship on specific historical periods.
David Sloan Wilson developed an EvoS (Evolutionary Studies) interdisciplinary program at SUNY Binghamton. That program now has about thirty affiliate programs, including one at UMSL. For some three decades, David has taken the lead in advancing the idea of “multi-level selection.” David’s work on ethics and religion—Unto Others, co-authored with Eliot Sober (1998), and Darwin’s Cathedral (2002)—has a historical dimension and in that respect overlaps with the work of Henry Harpending, Barbara Oakley and Peter Turchin. In Evolution for Everyone (2007), David demonstrated the power of evolutionary thinking across the whole spectrum of life. His most recent book is The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time (2011).
Christopher Boehm is both a primatologist and an anthropologist. In his seminal work on evolved social dispositions, Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior (2001), he isolates and compares the elementary principles of social organization among chimpanzees and hunter-gatherers. His most recent book, Moral Origins: The Evolution of Altruism, Virtue, and Shame, is scheduled to appear in winter of 2012.
Pascal Boyer’s books on religion, The Naturalness of Religious Ideas (1994), Religion Explained (2001), and The Fracture of an Illusion (2008), are among the most frequently cited evolutionary works on religion. Pascal is also now devoting much of his attention to integrating biology and cultural theory. He is co-editor of Memory in Mind and Culture (2009).
Robert Frank’s Passions within Reason (1988) was a pioneering effort to put economics into the context of evolved human emotional dispositions. His work in economics thus overlaps with all the recent neurobiological research that identifies emotion as an indispensable component in decision-making. His many books include The Economic Naturalist: In Search of Explanations for Everyday Enigmas (2008). His most recent book, The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good, is forthcoming.
David Linden is a professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of medicine and serves as Chief Editor of the Journal of Neurophysiology. His recent book The Accidental Mind explores multiple ways in which the brain reveals its tendency to “confabulate”—to create coherent narratives. That emphasis overlaps with the work of Dan McAdams and also with that of at least four of the speakers among the humanists (Brian Boyd, Joe Carroll, Ellen Dissanayake, and Jon Gottschall). David’s most recent book is The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good (2011).
Dan McAdams is a leading personality psychologist who has developed a theory about how humans create life narratives. His textbook The Person is in its fifth edition. Other important books include The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By (2006) and George W. Bush and the Redemptive Dream: A Psychological Portrait (2011). His interest in life narratives overlaps with the interests of David Linden in neurobiology and the evolutionary theorists of narrative in literature.
Barb Oakley is an engineer who has written two excellent books using neurobiological research to examine psychiatric pathologies: Evil Genes (2008) and Cold-Blooded Kindness (2011). She is also the lead editor in a forthcoming edited volume Pathological Altruism. (D. S. Wilson is one of her co-editors for this volume.) Evil Genes is particularly ambitious in that Barb includes well-informed biographical commentaries on pathological leaders such as Mao, Ceausescu, and Milosevic. Her historical interests overlap with the work of Peter Turchin and David Sloan Wilson.
Brian Boyd is the world’s leading scholar on Vladimir Nabokov. His work has been published in thirteen languages. He has published many essays on literature and evolution and is the author of On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition and Fiction (2009). In company with Joe Carroll and Jon Gottschall, Brian is a coeditor of Evolution, Literature and Film: A Reader (2010). His most recent book, Why Lyrics Last: Evolution, Cognition, and Shakespeare's Sonnets is forthcoming.
Joseph Carroll has published three single-authored books in Darwinist literary study, most recently Reading Human Nature: Literary Darwinism in Theory and Practice (2011). He co-edited Evolution, Literature, and Film: A Reader and the first two annual volumes of The Evolutionary Review: Art, Science, Culture (2010, 2011). In company with Jon Gottschall, John Johnson, and Dan Kruger, he co-authored the forthcoming Graphing Jane Austen: The Evolutionary Basis for Literary Meaning.
Patricia Churchland is a distinguished philosopher of neuroscience and the winner of a McArthur Award. She explores the impact of scientific developments on our understanding of consciousness, the self, free will, decision making, ethics, learning, and religion. Her many important books include Brain-wise: Studies in Neurophilosophy (2002) and Braintrust: What Neurosciences Tells us About Morality (2011).
Ellen Dissanayake is an evolutionary aestheticist. She has published three books on evolution and the arts, most recently Art and Intimacy: How the Arts Began (2000). She is very active in producing articles and in lecturing world-wide to ethnomusicologists, experts in tribal arts, arts educators, and evolutionary social scientists.
Jonathan Gottschall is a pioneer in the quantitative study of literature from an evolutionary perspective. His work in this field includes many articles and Literature, Science, and a New Humanities (2008). In The Rape of Troy: Evolution, Violence, and the World of Homer (2008), Jon reconstructs he evolutionary ecology of Homer’s world. His most recent book, The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, is forthcoming. Jon and David Sloan Wilson co-edited The Literary Animal: Evolution and the Nature of Narrative (2005). Jon also co-edited Evolution, Literature, and Film: A Reader (2010) and co-authored Graphing Jane Austen: The Evolutionary Basis for Literary Meaning (forthcoming).
Massimo Pigliucci has doctorates in genetics, botany, and philosophy. He does technical work in phenotypic plasticity and also writes books on science for general readers, for instance, Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science From Bunk (2010). He co-authored Making Sense of Evolution: The Conceptual Foundations of Evolutionary Biology (2006). Massimo is editor of the journal Philosophy and Theory in Biology and co-editor of the collection Evolution: The Extended Synthesis (2010).