HPS Colloquium - Vassiliki (Betty) Smocovitis

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Location: 120 DeBartolo Hall

Dr. Smocovitis studies the history, philosophy and social study of the twentieth century biological sciences, especially evolutionary biology, systematics, ecology and genetics. She also studies the history of the botanical sciences in America.

"Sons of Synthesis? E. O. Wilson, the Critique of the Adaptationist Program, and Sociobiology (1959-1979)"


This talk examines the crucial interval of time between 1959-1979 in the community of evolutionary biologists and focuses especially on E. O. Wilson, and his contemporaries, many of whom had seen themselves as the heirs to the "evolutionary synthesis" of the 1940s and 1950s.  It begins in the 1950s with the Darwin Centennial of 1959 that saw what some have described as the "hardening" of the synthesis around a selectionist core and the rise of a "new orthodoxy," and concludes with the challenges to the synthesis launched by Stephen J. Gould, and R. C. Lewontin, among others. The extent to which evolutionary biologists saw themselves as part of a larger unifying project, a kind of worldview upholding Enlightenment values of secular (or evolutionary) humanism, liberalism and progress will also be examined.