Friday, 11 November 2011

Price's accommodation

I just finished "The Price of Altruism" by Oren Harman. It is a biography of one of the most important, original, and - er - weird evolutionary biologists of the 20th century, George Price.

I just wanted to remind those who now wage war on accomodationists that Price was - temporarily - a Christian whose fundamentalism even appalled Henry Morris, the Texan founder of the Creation Research Science Center.
He'd argue over issues such as whether the passion of Jesus lasted a week or longer, whether the flood was global or local etc. with anybody, even if the other side was not interested. 

At the same time he came up with the covariance equation for natural selection, solved some of the biggest riddles of evolutionary theory like deriving Fisher's 'fundamental theorem of natural selection', applied game theory to animal combat, inspired Bill Hamilton and John Maynard Smith. At the same time really means that. He took the fact that he and not someone else came up with the covariance equation for natural selection as a first sign leading him to a religious conversion. Thereafter, he did his Christian and evolutionary work in parallel.

I know, the fight against accommodationists is currently taken out against clergy not scientists. So the risk is negligible that some crank will be mobbed out of academia, who could otherwise advance science.

But I propose to consider George Price and how - paradoxically - things we regard as mutually exclusive, like biblical literalism and cutting edge evolutionary theory, seem to have fitted into his scull.
  • Harman O. (2011) The Price of Altruism. George Price and the search for the origins of kindness. Vintage, London.