I’m pleased to be blogging again after an interruption of several years. I started blogging at the Huffington Post in 2007 and moved to ScienceBlogs in 2009. Those sites still exist but my blogging activity waned when I became involved in the creation of the online evolution magazine This View of Life. Now my hands were full writing articles for TVOL, which is not quite the same as blogging.
TVOL is part of a larger effort to expand evolutionary thought beyond the life sciences to include all aspects of humanity. That’s how Darwin thought about evolution, but its study in relation to human affairs became stigmatized early in the 20th century. As a result, evolution is taught primarily as a biological topic at colleges and universities worldwide and–apart from biological applications–public policy formulation takes place almost entirely without the benefit of modern evolutionary theory. I helped to start EvoS (for Evolutionary Studies and pronounced as one word) to address the first problem and the Evolution Institute to address the second. TVOL was developed under the auspices of both programs as a way to communicate “anything and everything from an evolutionary perspective” to the general public.
The Social Evolution Forum is the creation of Peter Turchin, who joined the Evolution Institute as Vice President in 2009. Peter’s idea for SEF was to promote discussion and collaboration on social and cultural evolution through target essays and commentaries in addition to his own blog. Peter also started the online journal Cliodynamics to advance the quantitative study of history. All of these ventures have been successful and are in the process of becoming integrated with each other.
What this means is that when I resume blogging, it will be on a much stronger foundation than when I began. Before, I was speaking mostly on the basis of my personal research. Now, I will be speaking as someone who helps to assemble evolutionary expertise on any topic that bears upon the human condition. Of course, my opinions remain my own and I will do my best to distinguish them from my role as a moderator of evolutionary inquiry.
I see these activities as a form of catalysis. In chemistry, a catalyst is a substance that vastly increases the rate of a reaction without being used up in the process. Rates of cultural evolution can also be catalyzed. There is no doubt that the synthesis of knowledge that took place for the biological sciences during the 20th century (which continues) is currently taking place for human-related knowledge in the 21st century. How fast it takes place is less certain. Organizations such as EvoS and the Evolution Institute and communication vehicles such as TVOL and SEF can make it happen sooner rather than later. I look forward to blogging about our progress and making SEF my primary blog home, in addition to more formal articles on TVOL and elsewhere.
Welcome, David, to blogging on the Social Evolution Forum. When I started my blog in 2012 we promised that eventually I would be joined by others. Well, now I am happy to see that this is happening. I think that having two (and eventually more) bloggers will have a synergistic effect. The SEF will have more frequent posts with more variable content. At the same time our main focus remains the same – we are interested in how evolutionary science can help us make sense of human behavior and the dynamics of our societies.
We are not planning to discontinue Special Features (Focus Articles followed by Commentaries). They will be another continuing strand on the SEF. Currently we are working on revising the structure of the SEF web site which will make these different streams more easy to see and follow. At the same time, as David mentioned, we are integrating other publications of the Evolution Institute together with the SEF, most notable the TVOL. Stay tuned for further developments!
Dr. Wilson, good to see you’ll be here. I read your recent book, “The Neighborhood Project”, and was curious to see the actual maps that were made of your home town (relating activities such as decorating for Christmas to the Developmental Assets Profile scores in different neighborhoods). Any chance we might get to see those posted on your blog here? It would be an interesting use of something that is maybe easier to put in a blog post than a printed book.
Sure thing! I’ll make it the subject of my next post!
Looking forward to it! “Evolution for Everyone” remains my most-recommended book to anyone asking to know more about the topic. Looking forward to further posts on the broad applicability of evolutionary thinking.
Bit of a random comment David but I always find the comment section in TVOL off-putting. Having to complete a captcha and fill in my details just to leave a quick comment means on most occasions I won’t bother. That’s hardly a big loss for the world but I think I am not alone in that sentiment and thus I suspect the current comment section setup is limiting feedback/interaction with articles. It might not be possible to change but I think a more user friendly comment interface would encourage more participation from readers. Regardless, look forward to your future articles.