Written by David Schoen
Gregory Tague (pictured above) is an English Professor at St. Francis College. Tague has taught over 30 different courses concerning a plethora of subjects and is currently working on the development of a new course, Evolutionary Studies. Tague recently submitted a syllabus for circulation of the proposed class and is awaiting the course to be approved.
I was thoroughly interested with how an English professor wanted to form a Scientific course, so the first topic I asked Professor Tague about was about his devotion to both English and Science. Tague replied that, after reading novels and their criticism, he was “interested in Human Behavior, and why people do the things they do, especially characters in novels.” That thought process influenced him to start reading about Neuroscience and how the brain evolved. Tague claimed he was solely interested in Human Behavior and why people act the way they do when referring to why he started The Evolutionary Studies Collaborative along with Dr. Kristy Biolsi (Psychology), Dr. Alison Dell (Biology), and Dr. Clayton Shoppa (Philosophy).
According to Professor Tague, Evolutionary Studies is a “nonfiction, somewhat science-based course” that would complement courses he’s devised and taught on Charles Darwin and on Women Primatologists. Professor Tague is also available to teach “Independent Study in evolutionary studies” where participating students will be “looking into the Adaptive Function of Culture and the Arts.” Though not planned to come out of the English Department, Professor Tague claimed that a course called Evolutionary Studies would be based upon his book Evolution and Human Culture, which examines the moral cognition of art. Tague added that a large portion of The Evolutionary Studies Collaborative is centered on morality and noted that, when we study other species, we can determine that “there are similarities in [. . .] what we call moral behaviors.” The goal of the course, along with others like it, is to give students “more variety [and] more of a choice” in their curriculum according to Tague.
Even if the Evolutionary Studies course does not run, there are six different independent studies offered by Professor Tague:
1) Darwin and His Word – A reading of “On the Origin of Species” (1859, first edition, complete text) by Charles Darwin, in the context of selections from, e.g. Paley, Lamarck, Spencer, Malthus, Lyell, Wallace, and Huxley.
2) Evolution and Human Culture – Some blend of two or more of the following approaches would be expected. Prehistory and mind; Biology and morality; Culture and evolution; Arts and aesthetics.
3) Art and Adaptation – Is art free-riding with no biological or cognitive value? How, if at all, is art connected to health, pleasure, play, neural plasticity, sexual selection, sociality, and individual and group emotions?
4) Moral Sense Theory, Consciousness, and the Origins of Narrative – How moral sense manifests itself, indeed how we use it in different instances, depends on our variable consciousness and our moral persistent character.
5) Women Primatologists: Field Narrative – Readings about chimpanzees (Goodall), mountain gorillas (Fossey), orangutans (Galdikas), baboons (Strum), and muriqui monkeys (Strier).
6) Environmental Writers – From Cosmos (Sagan) through Biophilia (Wilson) to Gaia (Lovelock), including Rachel Carson, Bill McKibben, Kirkpatrick Sale, and Aldo Leopold.
Regarding personal beliefs within The Evolutionary Studies Collaborative, Professor Tague stated that, while he welcomes everyone to hold their own opinion on the origin of humankind, he firmly believes in Evolution in all its dimensions while still a practicing Christian. Tague also said that other theories, such as Intelligent Design and Creationism, can be difficult to fit into the curriculum of a Science classroom. When asked about the Intelligent Design vs. Evolution debate, Professor Tague compared it to the Round Earth vs. Flat Earth theories.
Relating to The Evolutionary Studies Collaborative, Professor Tague commented that the structure is basically a loose network consisting of himself along with biologist Dr. Alison Dell, philosopher Dr. Clayton Shoppa, and psychologist Dr. Kristy Biolsi. Dr. Dell, who also happens to be a Biology Professor at SFC, stated that the ESC is great “for students and faculty who like to think about ideas from different perspectives.” Dr. Dell also went on to say that the Collaborative is ”truly interdisciplinary” and that “Dr. Tague’s masterminding of The Evolutionary Studies Collaborative is very important not only at SFC, but throughout the intellectual community.” Dr. Clayton Shoppa, a new Philosophy professor at SFC, supported this notion, claiming that “Dr. Tague is doing important work.” Dr. Shoppa went on to say that “the biggest questions we know how to ask tend to be questions no one discipline can handle alone or monopolize.” Individuals commit “methodological oversights” when they proceed independently of other scholars in adjacent disciplines. Shoppa continued that, in looking at fields such as “psychology, literature, biology and [. . .] philosophy” together, the Collaborative can draw deliberately from the best methods of these disciplines. Dr. Shoppa concluded by stating that the work in The Evolutionary Studies Collaborative challenges people “to understand the world [and] to integrate it in the broadest possible terms.” Lastly, Dr. Kristy Biolsi, co-founder and director of the Center for the Study of Pinniped Ecology & Cognition (C-SPEC) at SFC, commented that both C-SPEC and the ESC “have worked on projects/events together” and that their students have overlapped on occasion. Dr. Biolsi emphasized “the need for interdisciplinary work throughout all of higher education” and states that the ESC collaborative at SFC helps work towards that goal. Dr. Biolsi also mentioned that Tague’s input is both “thorough” and trustworthy. Dr. Biolsi revealed that it is a great pleasure “to work with faculty and students from disciplines” outside of her specialties. Those interested in C-SPEC research can also check out their work at: sfc.edu/pinniped.
Professor Gregory Tague has also written three books; “Making Mind,” “Evolution and Human Culture,” and “Art and Adaptability.” “Making Mind,” which Tague claimed was the longest to make at nearly five years, was his first book in the realm of interdisciplinary studies but his third monograph. In “Making Mind,” Tague claims that the first part of the book is about the moral philosophers of the 18th century, the middle section is a 100-page scientific study on neuroscience and Evolutionary Biology, and the final component of the book is a literary criticism based on a cognitive cultural perspective. “Evolution and Human Culture” largely follows Tague’s description of nature in accordance with his acceptance of evolution. In “Evolution and Human Culture,” Tague argues that human traits are evolved adaptations expressed differently in various cultures. Lastly, in “Art and Adaptability,” Tague’s argument is that humans use artifacts from material culture to convey ideas to other people. In essence, Tague stated that “Art and Adaptability” is a theory of mind where that material culture expanded to become more symbolic.
Professor Tague said that those wondering about The Evolutionary Studies Collaborative can pursue their interest at any time by checking out the Independent Studies offerings. He suggested Bio majors to take the “On the Origin of Species” at any time. Tague also recommended students to go to the SFC homepage at sfc.edu, mouse over the Academics Section, click the Institutes and Centers tab and then look for The Evolutionary Studies Collaborative.
The future of The Evolutionary Studies Collaborative is still developing. Professor Tague alluded to a January 23rd, 2017 Luncheon dealing with Interdisciplinary Studies and the formalization of the course, though that event is not open to the public. However, Professor Tague mentioned some planned upcoming public events for those interested in The Evolutionary Studies Collaborative:
1) February 12th, 2018 – Darwin Day: with a student panel, book giveaways, and food.
2) March 5th, 2018 – Meet and Greet: the recognition of people contributing to the orangutan care and scholarship funds.
3) March 5th, 2018 – Release of the next ASEBL Journal: consisting of papers from The Third NYC Moral Sense Colloquium Conference in June 2017.
Tague’s contact information at the bottom of the Evolutionary Studies flyer is as follows: Gregory F. Tague, PH.D., Room 6005. GTague@sfc.edu