Red Queen History

Townsend Blog
November 03, 2014
Red Queen from Through the Looking Glass, a very red queen

Avenali Chair Eelco Runia's November 17th lecture "The Theory of the Accomplished Fact" or, as he calls it, "Red Queen History" (after the evolutionary hypothesis named for the Lewis Carroll figure) considers the curious fact that the more things we have at our disposal to make life easier, from vacuum cleaners to smart phones, the harder life seems to get. It is much more illuminating, Runia argues, to apprehend our cultural evolution as a succession of ever new ways to make life more exacting, as a matter of  "selectiveness," in evolutionary scientific terms, rather than a matter of "variation." Runia suggests that over the course of our evolution we have stumbled upon a supremely effective strategy to create ever new "regimes of selectiveness," a strategy that can best be designated as the ability and the willingness to create accomplished facts.