March 15, 2010

Harvard’s Martin Nowak headlines Templeton Research Lectures

Martin A. Nowak, a professor of biology and mathematics at Harvard University, will lead off a weeklong series of daily events at Johns Hopkins with a talk titled “The Evolution of Cooperation” at 4 p.m. on Monday, March 22, in Homewood’s Mason Hall Auditorium.

Nowak will give four of the five 2009–2010 Templeton Research Lectures presented by the Krieger School’s Evolution, Cognition and Culture Project. His first lecture and his last, “God and Evolution” (details below), will be geared to a general audience.

The Johns Hopkins Evolution, Cognition and Culture Project explores the relations among evolution, cognition and culture with a focus on the cognitive science of religion. Each year, the project hosts a series of lectures on the cognitive science of religion by a distinguished Templeton Research Fellow. It also sponsors a wide range of further events dealing with all aspects science and religion.

Nowak is director of Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics and co-director of the Evolution and Theology of Cooperation project at the Harvard Divinity School. He works on the mathematical description of evolutionary processes, including the evolution of cooperation and human language, and the dynamics of virus infections and human cancer. His major discoveries include the mechanism of HIV disease progression and the rapid turnover and evolution of drug resistance in HIV infection. He is currently working on a theory known as “pre-life,” a formal approach to the origin of evolution.

Nowak has written many important publications, including the prize-winning Evolutionary Dynamics: Exploring the Equations of Life (Harvard University Press, 2006).

Nowak’s second lecture will take place at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, March 23, in 110 Clark Hall, where he will speak about “Evolutionary Dynamics.” The talk is co-sponsored by the Whiting School’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.

At 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 24, Nowak will discuss “Pre-Life” in 26 Mudd Hall, at an event co-sponsored by the Department of Biology. Refreshments will be offered at 4 p.m.

“Evolution and Structure” is the subject of a talk to be given by Corina Tarnita, a postdoctoral fellow who studies at Harvard with Nowak, at 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 25, in 304 Whitehead Hall, with the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics co-sponsoring the event.

Nowak concludes the series with “God and Evolution” at 3 p.m. on Friday, March 26, in the Bunting-Meyerhoff Interfaith and Community Service Center, co-sponsored by Campus Ministries.

The Templeton Research Lectures are made possible by a generous grant from the Metanexus Institute with matching funds from the John Templeton Foundation and the Krieger School. These three- to four-year project grants of up to $500,000 are awarded to promote important conversations at the forefront of the field of science and religion.

Since the grant was awarded in 2007 to an interdisciplinary group of Krieger School faculty, the team, led by Steven Gross, an associate professor of philosophy, has brought approximately 100 notable speakers to the Homewood campus, including Templeton Fellows Dan Sperber, one of France’s leading cognitive scientists, and Paul Bloom, professor of psychology and linguistics at Yale University.

For more information about the Krieger School’s Evolution, Cognition and Culture Project