University of Louisville professor Dr. Lee Dugatkin is an evolutionary biologist who has studied the biology of altruism for many years. The author three books, including the "Altruism Equation," today he'll talk about "Mr. Jefferson the Giant Moose," his latest book.
"Science is my passion, politics is my duty" - Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson in particular loved naturalism.
Jefferson's antagonist in this story was Count Buffon, arguably the most well known scientist of his day, who was determined to catalog and describe all life. "And in fact he came reasonably close," Dugatkin says, over the course of 36 volumes.
Buffon's book was the talk of Enlightenment Europe.
His "theory of degeneracy," however, described new world animals as inevitably feebler. The claim of fewer species also lent credence in Buffon's mind of the natural inferiority of animals in the Americas. Buffon's theorized that the cold and humidity led to this degeneracy.
Having never set foot in the new world, however, Buffon got his ideas from "travelers tales", from people who would often give Buffon second hand information.
What he heard was that nature had been "adopted on a smaller scale" in America. <
Having dismissed the fauna of the New World, his theory, when applied to the natives in this place, was even less complimentary. They were responsible for their own degeneracy.
Sequels from admirers and supplicants suggested, logically extended that argument to suggest that emigrants, too, would also catch degeneracy disease.
Listening from afar, the Founding Fathers were not amused. But it was Jefferson took the lead for a couple of reasons.
The idea of degeneracy was counter the claim made by he and others that anyone could succeed in this new place. It violated a core principle. Secondly, he was an ardent naturalist, often stopping to measure flora and fauna, and devoting enormous time to study and observation of the natural world.
He came to believe that Buffon's data as was simply wrong - Jefferson was in empiricist, after all - and that the European audience had been swayed by Buffon's unquestioned skill with the written word.
And all of this could have economic consequences. Who, after all, would want to settle in America?
Jefferson did two things.
Though not devoted entirely to the subject, his only book, "Notes on the State of Virginia," makes the case for the plant and animal life in Virginia, and by extension, the rest of the New World. In it, he includes a table comparing the measurements of old and new world animals, and of the number of species in both.
This Dugatkin shows to the crowd.
It's here that a giant moose makes it entrance. If numbers could advance the case, perhaps a moose might clinch it. Since popular news of the day referred to the moose as from 8 to 12 feet high, Jefferson starts asking questions of prominent revolutionary colleagues at the height of war.
Could I get a moose?
He's sent as ambassador to France in 1783 and promptly looks up Buffon to brag a bit about a certain large mammal, the moose. And surprisingly, he gets Buffon to admit that IF he can see such a beast, he, Buffon, will retract his degeneracy argument. A prolific writer on all manner of important issues of the day, Dugatkin says Jefferson would sometimes stop in the middle of a letter on trade or security or other issues of national import and ask, "for goodness sake, where is my moose?"
By 1787, eventually a moose is secured and shipped and, incredibly, Buffon agrees to retract publicaly his claims of degeneracy.
Then Buffon dies(!), which leaves the world of naturalism divided. Some continue with the degeneracy arguments (after all they had never been retracted in public by Buffon), and some oppose.
The arguments were a huge issue of the day right up until the Civil War, when the data and the evident economic might of the United States rendered it moot.
Right before he left for Iraq, Dana Canedy gave First Sergeant Charles King a journal that consumed the remainder of his life, a life, and life lessons, that she writes about in her book a "Journal for Jordan."
Following a resupply mission to exhausted troops who had been in action for an extended picture of time, he was killed by an improvised explosive device.
He had sent the journal home just days before, believing that he had said all he had to say. And Canedy, driven to do something with her grief, and wanting her child to know everything that there was to know about his father, began to write.
With total transparency as a goal, she saw it as "our last project together".
Reconstructing the last day of his life was an excruciating experience.
Reading from his letters, she recounts how he wrote home about losing the first soldier, a young man, and how the platoon had remembered him later on the night he died.
On another occassion Sgt. King wrote about how he had scolded his soldiers for not attending a memorial for another soilder, saying that staying away for any reason was selfish. Sgt. King wrote about the
Power of prayer
How to choose a wife, "all the big questions." During the writing of the book, Ms. Canedy interviewed soldiers who reported seeing a light under the door to a room in which Sgt. King would write.
He wrote further
To respect woman, to value differences, to be reserved and to repay loud people with quite resolve. Pausing for emphasis she adds, "Imagine of all the young men who never hear these words from their father."
"I fell in love with him all over again."
As for her, she said she learned to lean on her faith, to lean into her grief on days when it all seems too much and to seek help when necessary. And this: "There is nothing that will put a smile on your face more than a letting a child help you."
Get "out of your head" and do something for somebody else, she said. Be sure to laugh.
In the follow up Q&A she described her views on the future of journalism and newspapers, how she purposely kept her thoughts of the Iraq war out of the book - "I am only an expert on one man" - and how the life would bring a young immature woman occupied with her own career - her words - to this person and place.
High-speed innovation and imagination are the true global currency of the 21century, Po Chi Wu is talking today about it from a unique perspective as a researcher at the Innovation Research Center at Peking University in Beijing. Though I wasn't able to capture all of it, he describes the innovative environment as one of
Accelerating pace of change. In just the past fifteen years, 600 million cell phones have become available in China.
A hypercompetitive market.
Problem solving, which he adds, is a traditional Chinese strength.
Willingness to experiment - something that is new to the Chinese. "Failure is a signal," that's what he teaches his class. It may or may not be bad, but there is always an opportunity to learn something new. Be willing to fail.
For the Chinese, it diaspora - 500 million Chinese outside of China has helped fuel rapid growth.
His innovation takeaways for business are: Scale matters. Scale drives accelerating change. The business must meet human needs, which does not necessarily fit within a spreadsheet.
Marjorie Garber takes the stage to speak to the relevance of Shakespeare to modern culture. Her latest book, she says, is a deeply personal book, and she connects his plays to contemporary thought in the past 150 years or so in rapid fire.
Fortunately, there will not be an exam following this lecture.
Great works are never static, and the spinoffs many. "Shakespeare makes modern culture, and modern culture makes Shakespeare." It's this crossing between the two halves that sums up for her the whole of her comments today.
His plays are not timeless, but "are always adapted to the current moment and its concerns."
In one of many, many specific examples that follow, she points out that Macbeth was Abraham Lincoln's favorite play; it was the work he read on his entrance, figuratively and literally, into Washington, the place that would eventually take his life.
She notes broadly that theatre-about-theatre has extends beyond the film of Rosencrantz and Gildenstern, for example. This meta-narrative is correlative to a pervasive modern feeling by many that we are stuck in a play from which there is no exit.
Using the character of Shylock and many others, she illustrates how we all too often read back into Shakespeare what we would have him say. The retelling of the tragedies, for example, are politically advantageous, not historically accurate.
"We have a cultural compulsion to repeat" what captures the moment.
Leadership institutes and business books now use his plays as veritable case studies, to which she responds rhetorically, "how can something be simultaneously a case study and a singular example?"
She also recounts how the young schoolboy Shakespeare profited from a moment in English history that was rediscovering classic texts, and he could, thanks to the press, get his hands on those texts - as well as the Bible - for reading.
It's perhaps appropriate then that in responding to a question about the authorship question, she does not dwell on who else might have been the author, but on the intense fascination with question itself. But no matter, she concludes. It is the plays themselves that are ultimately the thing. They are not injured.
MacArthur genius award winner Will Allen is taking the stage. The power he refers to is not necessarily about what it takes to grow a Fair-quality pumpkin.
"By 2050 80 percent of the world's people will live in cities." The industrial food system needs help. Food choices - healthy food choices - need to be available.
Six million people dies last year of starvation worldwide.
Because of this and because of a younger generation that is more aware of what they're eating, a "good food revolution" has occurred that has begun to draw people in positions of power to water what he refers to as "food deserts".
Food from these deserts is impoverished. A green bean, for example, loses half its nutritional value in the two weeks it typically takes for it to make its way from Salinas Valley in California to your store's shelf. Prior to wide scale industrial farming, more nutritional content was available in food. Local food choices are incredibly important.
He show some pictures of a farm purchases in the early 1990's, along with images of the kids he worked with, some of whom are now in their thirties. As the images go by, the soil is becoming darker and richer, and the greenhouses more numerous.
And as the land produced more vegetables and jobs, life skills were also being developed. In nearby neighborhoods, the newly planted floors had the welcome effect of lowering a lot of drug-related crime.
"Change the look," he says "and people act differently."
From 2000 - 2009, he gained some attention for these transformative effects, "which is how I got sucked into what I do today," to a chuckle from the audience.
Today the Growing Power Community Food Center is a thriving, active place with peoples from all walks of life, a multi-cultural, multi-generational place - something he says he values a great deal - "because that's what our country looks like". It's a coop of 300 farmers that bring their food to the center.
Growing Power's composting operation grows new soil on a massive scale, know-how that's important for cities, which have very little healthy soil. A million pounds of food waste is composted in the neighborhood where Growing Power is located and used to grow food "that will take you to glory."
"It's all about relationaships," he said "you know you've done that when they come to you instead of the police" when they get the inevitable whiff of odor. 75 carbon, 25 percent nitrogen is the recipe for compost. In Louisville, he adds, "Breaking New Grounds" is doing it right.
About 30 million employees at Growing Power do the composting work, "and they work for food." Worm castings are marketed for $4 pound retail, $2 pound wholesale to provide anther income stream.
The rich, rich soil created will produce far more than the average acre of land, and he has the figures to prove. Raising intensively also has the welcome side effect of also enabling the grower to lift themselves from financial poverty.
Growing Power is into aquaculture, power generation, bee keeping, animal husbandry and many other farm-related activities. To its 30 employees, a living wage is paid. And in Milwaukee, all third graders will be provided a healthy afternoon snack. Not a bad deal.