‘Why be nice?’

‘Why be nice?’

Next UofL Beer with a Scientist program looks at evolution of goodness
‘Why be nice?’

Lee Dugatkin, Ph.D.

In a world where the concept of survival of the fittest rules and swimming with the sharks is touted as the way to success, humans and animals alike still perform what only can be described as great acts of kindness and altruism.

The evolutionary aspects of selflessness and doing for others will be explored in the next Beer with a Scientist program, “The evolution of goodness and justice: Why does it pay to be nice?” on Wednesday, Jan. 14, beginning at 8 p.m. at Against the Grain Brewery, 401 E. Main St.

Speaking will be University of Louisville Distinguished Scholar and Professor of Biology Lee Dugatkin, Ph.D. A behavioral ecologist, evolutionary biologist and science historian, Dugatkin’s research focuses on the evolution of cooperation, the evolution of aggression and the interaction between genetic and cultural evolution. Dugatkin has authored more than 150 scientific papers and published seven books.

The question about why humans and animals perform acts of goodness has plagued scientists for generations, most notably Charles Darwin in the 1850s as he developed his theory of evolution through natural selection.

“Indeed, Darwin worried that the goodness he observed in nature could be the Achilles’ heel of his theory,” Dugatkin said. “Ever since then, scientists and other thinkers have engaged in a fierce debate about the origins of goodness that has dragged politics, philosophy and religion into what remains a major question for evolutionary biology.”

The Beer with a Scientist program began in 2014 and is the brainchild of University of Louisville cancer researcher Levi Beverly, Ph.D. Once a month, the public is invited to Louisville’s Against the Grain brewpub for exactly what the title promises: beer and science.

Beverly created the monthly series as a way to connect with people who don’t have scientific backgrounds but want to know about scientific topics. “We lose sight of the fact that most people have never even met a Ph.D., never talked to one,” he said. “(However) whenever I go someplace, if I strike up a conversation at a bar and I tell someone what I do for a living, they always have questions. It leads to a whole conversation.”

Admission is free. Purchase of beer, other beverages or menu items is not required but is encouraged. Organizers add that they also encourage Beer with a Scientist patrons to drink responsibly.

For more information and to suggest future Beer with a Scientist topics, follow Louisville Underground Science on Facebook.