OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Evolution and cosmology discussed in next Horning Lecture

02/12/2007

CORVALLIS, Ore. – “Evolution on the Grandest Scale: Cosmology and Flashpoints of Controversy” is the subject of the fourth lecture in the 2006-07 Horning Endowment in the Humanities lecture series at Oregon State University. The series focuses on the them, “The Cultural Politics of Evolution.”

David Kaiser, an associate professor in Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s program of Science, Technology & Society, will speak at 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19, in Weniger Hall on the OSU campus. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Kaiser’s lecture will discuss how the modern era of cosmology engendered controversy from its start both within and beyond the halls of science. At the root of modern cosmology is Einstein’s theory of gravitation and the implication in his equations that a universe could evolve over time, a possibility that Einstein himself initially rejected. Other physicists worried that an evolving universe might sound too much like the Biblical account, and urged caution. Soon after World War II, scientists elaborated on competing cosmologies – the big bang and steady-state models – each built upon Einstein’s work.

More recently, modern theories have encountered push-back from adherents of intelligent design, demonstrating that cosmic evolution remains just as able to stir controversy as ever.

Kaiser’s physics research focuses on early-universe cosmology, working at the interface of particle physics and gravitation. His historical research focuses on the development of physics during the 20th century. In 2005, he published “Drawing Theories Apart: The Dispersion of Feynman Diagrams in Postwar Physics.” He also is the editor of “Pedagogy and the Practice of Science: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives” (2005).

His work has been honored with awards from the American Physical Society, the History of Science Society, the British Society for the History of Science, and MIT.