Many aspects of the natural world do not seem to make sense at first glance. Why are organisms so different from one another, yet have many points in common? How is it that there are innumerable examples of struggle and competition, but also cooperation and self-sacrifice? Why do organisms have remarkable adaptations, such as the human eye, as well as anomalies, including the fact that our windpipe and esophagus cross so that food sometimes “goes down the wrong pipe”? In this fun and participatory talk, Professor Morris will highlight these and other enigmas, and suggest ways that evolution makes sense of these seemingly contradictory aspects of the natural world.
James Morris is Professor of Biology at Brandeis University. He teaches a wide variety of courses, including introductory biology, evolution, genetics and genomics, epigenetics, comparative vertebrate anatomy, and a first-year seminar on Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. He is the recipient of numerous teaching awards from Brandeis and Harvard University. His research focuses on the rapidly growing field of epigenetics, making use of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism. Dr. Morris is a lead author of a college-level introductory biology textbook titled Biology: How Life Works. This textbook moves away from the traditional emphasis on terms and facts, and instead conveys concepts and ways of thinking that scientists use to understand the world around them and solve contemporary problems. He also writes short essays on science, medicine, and education at his Science Whys blog. Dr. Morris received a Ph.D. in genetics from Harvard University and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School. He was a Junior Fellow in the Society of Fellows at Harvard University and a National Academies Education Fellow and Mentor in the Life Sciences.