I’m a Podcast junky. They are a great way to get through my commute, house cleaning, and exercise. Also, a good way to try to sate the insatiable curiosity about everything that had to be narrowed down to a subject that would fit a dissertation. Whenever I get excited about something I’ve listened to, I remember a comment I read when studying interdisciplinarity–that scholars tend to decry the way their own field is treated in the media, but then turn around and rely upon the media to understand other fields.
With that caveat, I’d like to point out this week’s Radio Lab about the potential for change in (human) nature. I still remember sitting in Dagmar Herzog‘s class my second year in grad school, being introduced to the idea that human nature was malleable over time, particularly in the sense that our understanding of it is. So it was interesting to hear Radio Lab, a science show put on by WNYC, take on the idea. The producers depended largely upon evolutionary biologists for their stories. When reading or hearing about evolutionary biology, my historian’s backbone always stiffens a bit. That field seems to ignore human history in order to connect the impulses of our ape or hunter gather ancestors to our compulsions today.
Yet I wonder what a project connecting a historical perspective on human nature with an evolutionary biologist’s would look like.
Daniel Wickberg in his Historically Speaking essay mentioned the different fields with which intellectual history works well:
Intellectual historians often find themselves in dialogue with those at the margins of other disciplines: the philosophers who are less interested in analytical philosophy and more interested in the history of philosophy; the political scientists who study the history of political theory; the self-reflexive anthropologists; the sociologists of ideas and intellectuals; the literary scholars of discourse.
It would be good for us to keep this in mind as we try to expand the influence of this blog, and maybe even seek out radically different fields interested in similar questions.