Mark S. Blumberg is Professor and Starch Faculty Fellow at the University of Iowa. His books include The Oxford Handbook of Developmental Behavioral Neuroscience, Body Heat: Temperature and Life on Earth, and Basic Instinct: The Genesis of Behavior. He is Editor-in-Chief of the journal Behavioral Neuroscience, and President of the International Society for Developmental Psychobiology. His newest book is Freaks of Nature: What Anomalies Tell Us About Development and Evolution.
In this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Mark Blumberg describes how he became interested in “freaks of nature” as a way to question prevailing concepts within biology regarding genes, instincts, and pre-formed abilities. He talks about why he sees genetic determinism as “action at a distance thinking,” and why he thinks it is similar to creationist views, and describes both as “magical ways of thinking about nature.” He explains epigenetics. He describes how certain non-genetic factors that shape behavior may be inherited from one generation to the next. He discusses “sexual freaks” and sexual ambiguity in nature, and shows how in many ways, it is the norm in nature. He predicts the extinction of creationist thinking, and talks about how freaks of nature are a missed opportunity for those science advocates battling intelligent design and creationism, even as he also criticizes belief in “evolution’s design” and “magical genes.” He contrasts his views with those of evolutionary psychology as regards brain development. And he responds to notable critics of his views, such as Jerry Coyne.