Science should be broadcast beyond the walls of science. While some of the more esoteric details that often attract significant attention from scientists do not need to be brought into the public light, the major findings of science — and the broader significance of these findings — need to be delivered to non-scientists in an accessible manner that captures both the wonder and importance of scientific discoveries. In particular, scientific understanding needs to be applied to real problems faced by everyday people and the societies in which they live.
To this end I have been working on a series of “outreach lectures” designed for general audiences. As these become further developed, I hope to present these in diverse arenas to diverse audiences. Below is a selection of the outreach lectures I currently offer…
Highly-creative baby-breeding idea propagators: What human (re)productive choices mean for the future of our species
This talk provides an overview of my book-in-progress with the working title Breeders, Propagators, & Creators: Culture, Biology, and the Future of Human Evolution. Every other organism on the planet is ruled by a single imperative: leave offspring or face extinction. Humans are different. We are ruled by two imperatives: to leave a genetic legacy by producing children and to leave a cultural legacy by propagating ideas. The survival of the human species as we know it depends as much upon the continuation of our cultural lineage as it does upon the perpetuation of our biological lineage. But that doesn’t mean that every human contributes to our future in the same ways: different people play different roles in the baby-making, idea-making, and idea-spreading that define our species. This talk explores the various (re)productive roles that humans play, why we choose to dedicate our lives to different kinds of production, and how our choices might affect the future of our species.
Ecosystems: Where they came from, how they work, and why they stick around
This presentation is aimed at audiences interested in sustainability, in particular those who wish to consider how biomimicry of biological systems might be used to design a more sustainable society and economy. I discuss how ecosystems have evolved and what we do and do not know about their evolutionary dynamics and persistence. I discuss experiments — including the Biosphere 2 project — which have sought to engineer ecosystems. I also discuss how the long-term instability of human practices which violate fundamental rules of ecosystem stability.
So far, I have delivered this talk at Pratt Institute.
Diversity, Culture, Theory, and Data: Science on Human Variety
This presentation was ‘part 2’ in a pair of lectures delivered by B. Ric Brown and me on the subject of human diversity. Ric’s book Until Darwin centers on how European cultural biases led to the misclassification of human populations as separate species (or even subspecies). Ric’s book and talk very comprehensively explores these conceptions of race and species before Darwin introduced theories that would eventually lead to the recognition that all humans belong to the same species. My talk focuses on what has happened since Darwin, and suggests that while the science explaining human variety has changed, the danger of cultural biases producing junk science has not.
So far, I have delivered this talk at Pratt Institute.
While these are the only fully-realized outreach lectures that I have created, I have several others in mind. My experience at a Columbia University symposium has inspired me to work on a presentation with the rough title of “Pushing the Boundaries of Creation” that would be aimed at audiences of faith and discuss how human impacts are stretching ecosystems past their limits. I am also interested in applying what I know about cooperative social dynamics to create a presentation with the rough title of “Tragedy of the Common Road”; this talk would consider how automobile use reflects well-known tragedy of the commons dynamics and suggest how we might mitigate some of the very serious social consequences of these dynamics.
If you are a community leader who is interested in having me speak to your group, please do not hesitate to contact me.
If you want to pitch me to speak at your institution, below is my updated professional bio:
Christopher X Jon Jensen, Ph.D., is an educator, writer, and scientist with interests in cooperation, human cultural evolution, and sustainability. He is Associate Professor at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, where he teaches biology courses to future creative professionals. His position as a scientist at an art and design school provides him with a unique perspective on the intersection between human creativity, human production, and our biological origins.
Dr. Jensen teaches courses designed for future culture-makers: designers, artists, architects, writers, and critical theorists. He has taught a variety of ecology and evolution courses, all of which include a consideration of how human culture evolves. In his Evolution course, students compare and contrast the biological and cultural evolutionary processes that have shaped the human species. His Human Evolution course looks at our evolutionary history as a product of gene-culture coevolution. Perhaps the only course of its kind for non-majors, his The Evolution of Cooperation course investigates how the evolution of cultural norms has allowed humans to live at larger and larger organizational scales. He also teaches courses in Ecology that consider how the cultural evolution of human industry has impacted the ecosystems on which we depend.
A passionate educator with experience in both secondary and higher education, Dr. Jensen is an expert at scientific communication, both through traditional classroom approaches and work aimed at the general public. He has developed a large variety of classroom activities that facilitate active learning through collaboration, presentation, and visual representation. Working alongside designers, he has also collaborated to develop infographic images that explain the basics of game theory as well as several classroom applications that enable students to explore the dynamics of how cooperation evolves. He also explores the genesis of ecological and evolutionary theory through The WmD Project, a video blog series designed to engage non-traditional learners.
Currently, I do not charge a speakers’ fee, although I will need reimbursement for travel and lodging expenses.