Who we areWe are explorers searching for we're not entirely sure what using stacks of maps largely crafted to mark territories not our own. We are driven in this search by a few simple questions and guided by an overarching theoretical framework. At the same time, we are haunted by the belief that someone, somewhere, has mapped out significant portions of the journey we hope to undertake, that we are missing something important that would be obvious to residents of other lands.
More specifically, we are graduate students who were compelled to undertake our studies by fundamental questions that wormed their way into our brains, questions for which we were unable to find ready answers. Why do some cultural traits persist for centuries (or longer) while others change as frequently as fashion? What intellectual space would open up if we were to imagine natural selection from a different perspective? When is tolerance of variation adaptive and when does it pay to restrict variation as much as possible?
Somewhere along our respective journeys, we each came across the concept of multilevel selection and it somehow rang true. While it didn't immediately answer our questions, it provided a framework in which to start organizing the information relevant to our questions that we were uncovering in disciplines as diverse as biology, anthropology, psychology, history, religious studies, economics, political science, etc. At the same time, it has presented its own problems, problems that have led us to yet more unanswered questions. Nonetheless, we have come to appreciate the greater flexibility that multilevel selection affords and its greater capacity for substrate neutrality, a cornerstone of an emerging, extended synthesis of evolutionary theory.
No single discipline that we've uncovered so far seems to have taken our questions head on, yet many disciplines have touched on them to one degree or another. This has forced us to become highly interdisciplinary in our approaches. While this is rewarding from a purely intellectual standpoint, it can be terribly impractical in other respects. It is simply impossible for us to become experts in all the fields our work intersects with, leaving us strangers in strange lands, perpetual dilettantes uncertain of whom to ask as guides or, lacking a common language, even how to ask.