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McGill Reporter
March 20, 2003 - Volume 35 Number 12
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Lurching towards evolution

Niles Eldredge likes to blow his own horn. He likes to study them too: he has a collection of 400 19th-century cornets. The paleontologist and evolutionary theorist uses the brass instrument to compare the processes of biological and material evolution. He's better known as developing the theory of "punctuated equilibria," which holds that evolution, rather than being a constant gradual process, occurs in spurts in response to outside events like dramatic climate shifts.

Eldredge will be delivering this year's Macnamara Memorial Lecture, titled "What Drives Evolution." The Macnamara lectures are funded by friends of former psychology department professor John Macnamara, and are part of that department's Hebb lecture series. So why invite a paleontologist?

Tom Chalkley / www.tomchalk.com

"John Macnamara was a very broad, very creative psychologist, and he was very interested in the history of science. It's not out of character for us to invite someone who was not a psychologist," explained lecture coordinator Al Bregman.

Eldredge is also something of a crusader. He has written many books that take on the theory of creationism: one of his most recent books is The Triumph of Evolution... And The Failure of Creationism.

"I guess he's in an area where it does stir up religious passions. He'd be right in the middle of that," said Bregman.

"I'm sure he's going to give a very interesting talk. I hope we can accommodate all the people who will come."

Niles Eldredge "What Drives Evolution?" Friday, March 21, 3 pm Rm. S1/4 Stewart Biological Sciences Building.

Carnival of choreography

You have to walk before you can dance, but watching the members of Mosaica perform their eurhythmic magic makes you wish it wasn't so. The smooth elegance and cool moves of the 18 dancers makes dancing look easier than a walk in the park.

Mosaica dancers in motion
Owen Egan

It's not. Michele Ramien, a master's student in pharmacology, has been a member of the troupe (officially called the McGill Contemporary Dance Ensemble) since 1997. She explained that the 18 current members practice together at least two hours every Friday — and all day Saturday. In addition, Ramien takes two other dance courses and needs to exercise regularly to keep herself in shape for the rigours of performance.

"I love performing. Although I am not an extremely extroverted person, I like the challenge of putting myself 'out there' because that's what performance really is, it's kind of like baring yourself to the world and making a strong statement," she said.

The company has a variety of different dance backgrounds: Ramien herself was trained from the age of four in Russian Vaganova-method ballet, but others come from modern, hip-hop and jazz dance backgrounds. The variety comes out in the troupe's annual shows — the dances this year will be set to pieces as varied as "Get a move on" by Mr. Scruff to "Music for 18 musicians" by Steven Reich.

Dances are choreographed by members of the troupe, and given the disparate approaches of the members, the show promises to be a true kinetic kaleidoscope.

"I think there's really something for everyone in it. Our dancers are extremely talented and charismatic. I think that the contrast between the different styles presented will be really dynamic and exciting for the audience," said Ramien.

Mosaica's annual show will be at the Players' Theatre, 8 pm, March 27-29, April 2-5, plus a matinee April 5 at 2 pm. Tickets are $6 for students, $8 for adults. Call 398-6813 to reserve.

Gulf watch

Although it now looks beyond question that the American coalition of the willing will be marching on Baghdad soon, people are still seeking answers to a host of other questions. What will be the long-term repercussions for the region? What will post-war Iraq look like? What will be the implications for countries like Canada who did not participate, and countries like France that actively opposed the U.S. march to war?

A panel of experts — including ethnic conflict expert Stephen Saideman and political philosophy professor Catherine Lu, an expert in the moral and legal ethics of the use of force — has been dealing with these questions on a weekly basis for more than a month now. One is scheduled for 2:30 pm, March 21 in Leacock 132, by which time the bombs may already have started dropping.

If that is the case, the briefings, which are moderated by political science professor Rex Brynen, will increase to two or three times per week. Each would last an hour, consisting of a summary and analysis by members of the group, followed by a Q&A period.

The briefings are sponsored by the Department of Political Science, the Middle East Studies Program, the Marrett Memorial Seminar Series on Terrorism and Political Violence, and the Interuniversity Consortium for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies (ICAMES).

For information on the brief-ings please go to www.mcgill.ca/ gulfwatch2003

Head for the beach!

Grab a deck chair, mix yourself something pink and stick an umbrella in it, squeeze into your speedo and head to the main hall of the Leacock. Revel in the sight of a sailboat drifting across a Caribbean horizon. Drink in the beauty the fiery arms of a setting sun reaching across the ocean to the sandy beach.

We at the Reporter have not finally succumbed to cabin fever: we have been rescued from it, by the photos of Arts and Science Recorder and Chief Invigilator Sharon Bezeau. The amateur landscape photographer's works have been on display in the Leacock building since March 6.

Photo: courtesy sharon bezeau

"I have been over the years making photo cards, rather than buying cards, and the Dean of Arts was quite taken with them and suggested I exhibit a few of them," explained Bezeau. The exhibit — titled "Travels With my Camera" — are of locales as varied as Barbados, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Vancouver. Traveling is a bit of a habit with Bezeau — she's lived in Nigeria, Paris and Athens.

"I'm particulary attracted to the play of light on water and off clouds. I became excited about photography when we started taking winter vacations in the Caribbean. I was just overwhelmed with the beauty and splendour of afternoon sunsets."

Susan Sharpe, assistant to Dean of Arts Carman Miller, explained that Bezeau's exhibit is hopefully the first of many for the department.

"It's something the Dean has been interested in starting, so faculty or staff can show the different talents they have, whether its photography, writing poems or painting," said Sharpe.

"We're hoping someone will, once they've seen this, will [offer] some artwork, pottery or who knows."

"Travels With my Camera," by Sharon Bezeau will be on display until March 28. There will be a vernissage March 20, 4:30 to 6:30 pm, at which prints will be available for purchase.

Bio-economics

John Ruskin, a leading social critic of the mid-1800s, coined the term "illth" to refer to economic and social activities that led to no social good, like war and crime. Herman Daly would add unchecked economic growth.

The founder and associate editor of Ecological Economics, Daly will be coming to McGill to deliver the second of the two-part Rachel Carson lecture series in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the publication of her seminal book Silent Spring.

Daly maintains that Silent Spring, published in 1962 and often described as the manifesto of the early environmental movement, contributed to his passion for the environment. That passion carried through to his work at the World Bank — an institution hardly renowned for its ecological concern — where Daly contributed to its sea change. Now the bank has projects and policies on biodiversity conservation, environmental degradation and ozone depletion.

His public talk at McGill will question the assumption that economic growth can and should continue indefinitely.

"He provides an alternative view of economics, and there aren't too many of those," said Theresa Alper, communications officer from the office of the vice-principal (research).

"People normally think that unlimited uneconomic growth is a good thing, and he has some caveats to that. He tries to fit the economy to the biosphere."

At McGill, Daly will spend two days meeting with students and faculty members of the McGill School of the Environment and the Departments of Agricultural Economics and Natural Resource Sciences.

"Uneconomic Growth and the Illth of Nations: Defining the Optimal Scale of the Macro Economy." Thursday, March 27, 6:00 pm, Fieldhouse Auditorium, Leacock Building, Rm. 132.

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