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.