Seminars and Panels

Public Ethics, Politics and Sociobiology

Professor Myrna Perez Sheldon

Mar 11 2016
11:00 A.M. - 12:30 P.M.
232 Philip G. Hoffman Hall

When E.O. Wilson published Sociobiology: A New Synthesis in 1974, the book set off an academic controversy that crystallized divergent visions of the nature of natural science, and its appropriate role in the American political context. This talk examines the altercations between Wilson and his colleague, paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould through their publications and correspondence. Wilson held to a classically liberal vision of science as the necessary foundation for a democratic society. In his view, science ought to be defended from cultural criticism and interference. In contrast, Gould was deeply concerned about the history of scientific racism and sexism in the United States. Influenced by his participation in leftist activist movements, Gould believed that science could best participate in social justice if it opened itself up to the American public. These divergent views of science and public ethics translated into a bitter disagreement between these evolutionary scientists at the height of the sociobiology controversy.

About Professor Myrna Perez Sheldon

Myrna Perez Sheldon is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality at Rice University. She received her doctorate in the History of Science at Harvard University in 2014. She has held research fellowships at the Darwin Correspondence Project at Cambridge University, the Huntington Library and Harvard Divinity School. Her work concentrates on the relationships between American politics, evolutionary science, religious communities and concepts of race, gender and sexuality. Her first book uses the public career of Harvard evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould to examine the impact of American Creationism and the New Christian Right on evolutionary science and the politics of scientific expertise in the 1980s, and is under review at the University of Chicago Press. Ongoing research projects include the role of evolutionary frameworks in shaping contemporary evangelical understandings of gender and the religious politics of American environmentalism. Her second book project investigates the relationship between evolutionary science and Christian theology in American cultural understandings of race and sexuality.

Myrna will be joining the faculty at Ohio University in the Fall of 2016, as an Assistant Professor of Gender and American Religion, jointly appointed in the Department of Classics and World Religions and the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program.

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Selective Comments

" This talk was much more interesting than I expected"

"Please introduce more such seminars"