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Arbitrary Boundaries

  • Ryan's Daughter 350 East 85th Street New York, NY, 10028 United States (map)

Humans love to categorize. We constantly divide things into groups - bees are different from butterflies, plants are different from animals, even one human is different from another, separated by boundaries we socially construct and secrets we keep. But what are the consequences of drawing these arbitrary boundaries? What gets left in, what gets moved out, and how fluid is the relationship among things we seek to divide? Join us for an evening in conversation with a social scientist and a theoretical evolutionary biologist as we think about why we separate ourselves from one another or one species from the whole, and what it would mean if those nebulous boundaries didn’t really exist.

Speakers: Jon Wilkins (Ronin Institute) and Michael Slepian (Columbia University)

Jon Wilkins - Fuzzy Boundaries in Biology: Species, Populations, Individuals, and Genes What is a species? An organism? A gene? When natural selection happens, what is being selected? These are fundamental concepts in biology, but when you look closely, you find that the answers are always provisional, context dependent, and fuzzy around the edges. We’ll start with the trouble of defining a species, work down through human genetic diversity to the individual, and finally, the gene. At each stage, what seem like natural categories are merely regular, but imperfect, correlations.

Jon Wilkins - Fuzzy Boundaries in Biology: Species, Populations, Individuals, and Genes

What is a species? An organism? A gene? When natural selection happens, what is being selected? These are fundamental concepts in biology, but when you look closely, you find that the answers are always provisional, context dependent, and fuzzy around the edges. We’ll start with the trouble of defining a species, work down through human genetic diversity to the individual, and finally, the gene. At each stage, what seem like natural categories are merely regular, but imperfect, correlations.

Michael Slepian - The Secrets We Keep Ranging from the everyday (telling a white lie) to the extraordinary (secrets about national security), people often keep secrets from others. To date, the science of secrecy has yet to closely examine the effects of keeping secrets. In my research, I demonstrate which secrets people commonly keep, and the consequences of keeping secrets. Even when we don’t have to hide our secrets, they can still weigh heavy on us, with consequences for relationship quality, well-being, and health.  

Michael Slepian - The Secrets We Keep

Ranging from the everyday (telling a white lie) to the extraordinary (secrets about national security), people often keep secrets from others. To date, the science of secrecy has yet to closely examine the effects of keeping secrets. In my research, I demonstrate which secrets people commonly keep, and the consequences of keeping secrets. Even when we don’t have to hide our secrets, they can still weigh heavy on us, with consequences for relationship quality, well-being, and health.

 

Earlier Event: April 24
Science Solved It
Later Event: April 25
Sex+: Science and Technology