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Darwin Day speaker to address evolutionary roots of altruism

TAMPA, Fla. -- Ground squirrels stand upright and squeal to warn others of predators, even though it puts them at risk. Humans risk their own lives and safety to save others. Such altruistic behaviors have long fascinated scientists like Lee Dugatkin, who ponders the evolutionary roots of caring -- perhaps fittingly on St. Valentine’s Day!

At 6 p.m. on Feb. 14, in the TECO Room in the Education building, Dugatkin will address “The Evolution of Altruism: From Darwin to Today.” He asks, “In a world supposedly governed by ruthless survival of the fittest, why do we see acts of goodness? Darwin worried that this goodness could be the Achilles heel of his theory.” Dugatkin will trace the history of the debate, which has taken on major political and cultural overtones, from Darwin to today.

Earlier that day, Dugatkin offers “The Interaction of Genes and Culture: Mate Choice in Guppies and Humans.” While directed toward students and faculty in the Department of Integrative Biology, it is also open to the public. Also at 1 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 15, in collaboration with the Department of History, Dugatkin will present “Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose: When Natural History and History Collide,” based on his book.

In the book, Dugatkin explains after our country’s independence, many Europeans viewed the new America as a degenerate backwater, with French naturalists arguing that American life forms, including humans, were inferior. Thomas Jefferson spent years countering this and as part of this defense, he shipped a seven-foot moose to Paris. “The legend of the moose is a fascinating tale about Jefferson’s passion to build American prestige.”

Dugatkin is the author of more than 150 academic articles on evolution and behavior and has published several books, including his latest “The Prince of Evolution” (2011). He has spoken at more than 70 universities around the world and is a contributing author to major publications such as Scientific American, Slate, the New Scientist, Newsday and the Wilson Quarterly. Visit co-sponsors include the Departments of Philosophy and Anthropology, USF’s ResearchOne and the Coalition for Science Literacy.

For three days in February, the USF Humanities Institute and the Department of Integrative Biology celebrate Charles Darwin’s birthday with Dugatkin, professor and distinguished university scholar in the Department of Biology at the University of Louisville. Dugatkin will present three different talks, all free and open to the public, as well as participating in teacher and student education initiatives with Hillsborough County Schools.

Feb. 14
3:30 p.m.
“Darwin, Genes, Culture: Mate Choice in Guppies and Humans”
Marshall Student Center (MSC 2100A)

6 p.m.
“The Evolution of Altruism: From Darwin to Today”
TECO Room (Education Building)
Reception to follow

Feb. 15
1 p.m.
“Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose: When History and Natural History Collide”
Marshall Student Center (MSC 3707)

For more information and parking information, please contact Liz Kicak, at the USF Humanities Institute: or 813.974.3657.


Filed under:Arts and Sciences Integrative Biology Philosophy Anthropology Humanities Institute 
Author: Elizabeth Bird