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March 28, 2005

Intersection of Evolution and Religion Focus of Lecture April 4

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—Since Darwin, evolution and religion have been portrayed primarily in stark contrast, but evolutionary biologist and anthropologist David Sloan Wilson takes a different perspective.

At 4:30 p.m. Monday, April 4, Wilson will discuss how evolutionary theory can be used to understand the nature of religious groups. The lecture shares the title of his latest book “Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society.” It will be held in Smith College’s McConnell Hall, Room B05, and is free and open to the public.

Wilson argues that throughout human history, religion has enabled people organized in large groups to achieve goals that they could not have achieved without common belief systems and value-based organizational structures.

From an evolutionary perspective, Wilson examines the benefits faithful people enjoy in this life as a result of belonging to a religious group. He does not restrict his methodology to genetic variation in the individual, but recognizes a hierarchic scheme of natural selection that he thinks is more adequate to the symbolic process of cultural evolution.

Wilson is professor of biological sciences and anthropology at Binghamton University in New York. He is also director of EvoS, a program that seeks to make evolutionary theory part of the common discourse for all subjects relevant to human affairs and the natural world.

After receiving his bachelor’s from the University of Rochester, Wilson earned a doctorate from Michigan State University. In addition to his latest book, Wilson wrote “The Natural Selection of Populations and Communities”; and “Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior.”

In 2003, Wilson received the State University of New York’s Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities. He is currently leading a research project that examines 25 religions.

Smith’s Department of Biological Sciences and the Dean of Religious Life sponsored the lecture, with support from the departments of anthropology, history, psychology and religion, and the program in the history of science and technology.

Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Kristen Cole
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