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Joan Roughgarden

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Other names  Jonathan Roughgarden
Name  Joan Roughgarden
Citizenship  U.S.
Role  Biologist
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Born  13 March 1946 (age 69) Paterson, New Jersey (1946-03-13)
Residence  Wili Road, Kapa'a, Hawaii
Institutions  University of Massachusetts Boston Stanford University Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology
Alma mater  University of Rochester
Thesis  Implications of density dependent natural selection (1971)
Education  Harvard University (1971), University of Rochester
Awards  Guggenheim Fellowship for Natural Sciences, US & Canada
Fields  Ecology, Evolutionary biology
Books  Evolution's Rainbow, The Genial Gene: Deconstr, Evolution and Christian, Theory of Population Genetics, Primer of ecological theory

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Joan Roughgarden (born Jonathan Roughgarden on 13 March 1946) is an American ecologist and evolutionary biologist. She is well known for her theistic evolutionism and critical studies on Charles Darwin's theory of sexual selection.


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Early life and Education

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Roughgarden was born in Paterson, New Jersey, USA. She received a Bachelor of Science in biology and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from University of Rochester in 1968 and later a Ph.D. in biology from Harvard University in 1971. In 1998, Roughgarden transitioned from male to female, and feminized her first name Jonathan to Joan on her 52nd birthday on 13 March.


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Roughgarden worked as an Instructor and Assistant Professor of Biology at University of Massachusetts in Boston in 1970. In 1972 she joined the faculty of Biological Sciences at Stanford University. After becoming full professor she retired in 2011, and became Emeritus Professor. She founded and directed the Earth Systems Program at Stanford and has received awards for service to undergraduate education. In 2012 she moved to Hawaii, where she became an adjunct professor at the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology. She had advised 20 PhD and 15 postdoctoral students.


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Roughgarden has authored books and over 180 scientific articles. In addition to a textbook on ecological and evolutionary theory in 1979, Roughgarden has carried out ecological field studies with Caribbean lizards and with barnacles and their larvae along the California coast. In 2004 Roughgarden published a challenge to sexual selection titled Evolution's Rainbow: a critique of Darwin's sexual selection theory based on instances in which animals do not follow traditional sex roles where the male attempts to impress the female, and the female chooses her mate. It also contains a literature survey on unexpected sexual behavior in many species of animals.

An article published by her lab on these ideas received criticism in the pages of the journal Science. Forty scientists produced ten critical letters, some of which were vitriolic. However, Roughgarden, quoted as being "not altogether surprised" by the volume of dissent, argued that her team had replied to most of the criticisms.

In her 2009 book The Genial Gene, the case against sexual selection theory is continued and social-selection theory presented as an alternative. It lists 26 phenomena not explained by current sexual-selection theory that are better explained by social selection. According to Roughgarden, sexual selection theory derives from a view of natural behavior predicated on the selfish-gene concept, competition and deception, whereas the social-selection theory derives from teamwork, honesty, and genetic equality. She continues to make analytical studies that social selection is a more credible explanation in terms of population as a whole, as sexual selection is confined to interaction between individuals.

Roughgarden has written on the relationship between Christianity and science. Her book Evolution and Christian Faith: Reflections of an Evolutionary Biologist presents scripture passages that emphasize her belief that the Bible does not conflict with evolutionary biology and relates Christianity and evolution by asserting that all life is interconnected, as members of a faith community are connected. Roughgarden opposes the theories of creationism and intelligent design, but asserts her belief in God's involvement in evolution. She attended and was a speaker at the Beyond Belief symposium in November 2006.

Awards and honours

  • Stonewall Book Award, 2005
  • Dinkelspiel Award for Undergraduate Teaching, Stanford University, in 1995
  • Visiting Research Fellow at the Merton College, University of Oxford, in 1994
  • Elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1993
  • Fellow of Guggenheim Foundation in 1985
  • University Fellow, Stanford University in 1978
  • Roughgarden has served as associate editor of several academic journals, including Philosophy and Theory in Biology (since 2008), American Naturalist (1984-1989), Oecologia (1979-1982), and Theoretical Population Biology (1975-1986). She was the Vice-Chair and Chair of Theoretical Ecology Section of the Ecological Society of America during 2002-2003. She has served on the Nonprofit Organization Board for the Oceanic Society (San Francisco), the EPA Science Advisory Board Committee on Valuating the Protection of Ecological Systems and Services, and the science advisory boards of the Pacific Ocean Conservation Network (California), and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (Santa Barbara).


    Joan Roughgarden Wikipedia