S&S Dinner Dialogues, with Steve Nowicki
How Occam’s Razor is Sometimes Dulled – A Story of Birdsong and Braininess: Birdsong is learned and learned features of a male’s song are known to affect female mating preferences. The “developmental stress hypothesis” explains this relationship by suggesting that song serves as an indicator of male quality. This hypothesis has been supported by data from labs around the world. A follow-on hypothesis, one we proposed 20 years ago, is that the benefit females gain by mating with males having well-learned songs is that these males must have higher cognitive capacity in general, given their better-built brains. That is, better singers should be smarter. The simplicity and intuitive appeal of this idea led many researchers to assume it must be true even before it was adequately tested. When we finally completed definitive experiments, however, this elegant hypothesis found itself crushed under the unrelenting weight of contrary data. This proved to be an object lesson in the importance of adequately testing intuitively simply hypotheses and of publishing negative results that undermine favored hypotheses.”
Join Professor Nowicki for dinner and discussion on Monday, November 11th at 7:00 pm. This event is free to attend, and transportation is available if needed.
Selected attendees will be notified via email several days in advance of the dinner with details regarding the meeting location. All dinners will be within reasonable driving distance to Duke campus.
Science & Society will also provide a shuttle for those unable to arrange transportation to the dinner dialogue location. Shuttles will depart 30 minutes before the scheduled event from the front entrance of the North Building on West Campus. Click here for a map.