Center for Global Humanities Lecture/Seminar Series

Living With Our Natural Imperfections

6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
WCHP Lecture Hall in Parker Pavilion
Portland Campus
Telmo Pievani
Free and open to the public. There will be a reception at 5 P.M. in the Art Gallery

In the beginning, there was imperfection, which became the source of all things. Anomalies and asymmetries caused planets to take shape from the bubbling void and sent light into darkness. Life on earth is a catalog of accidents, alternatives, and errors that turned out to work quite well. In this lecture, Telmo Pievani will explain that life on our planet has flourished and survived not because of its perfection but despite (and perhaps because of) its imperfection. He will begin this amazing story with the disruption-filled birth of the universe and proceed through the random DNA copying errors that fuel evolution, the transformations of advantages into handicaps by natural selection, the anatomical and functional jumble that is the human brain, and our many bodily mismatches.


Telmo Pievani is a professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Padua, where he holds the first Italian chair of Philosophy of Biological Sciences. Previously, he served as professor of the Philosophy of Science at the University of Milan Bicocca. He is past president of the Italian Society of Evolutionary Biology, and is currently a fellow of several academic institutions and scientific societies including fellow of the Scientific Board of Science Festivals in Italy and fellow of the International Scientific Council of MUSE in Trento. He is a member of the editorial boards of Evolution: Education and Outreach, Evolutionary Biology, Rendiconti Lincei Sc. Fis. Nat., Nature Italy, Istituto Treccani, and the Italian edition of Scientific American. He is author of more than 300 publications, including a robust list of books that includes: Introduction to Philosophy of Biology (Laterza, 2005); The Theory of Evolution (Il Mulino, 2010); Born to Believe (Codice Edizioni, 2008, with V. Girotto and G. Vallortigara); The Unexpected Life (Cortina Editore, 2011); Homo Sapiens. The Great History of Human Diversity (Codice Edizioni, 2011, with L.L. Cavalli Sforza); Introduction to Darwin (Laterza, 2012); The End of the World (Il Mulino, 2012); Freedom of Migration (Einaudi, 2016, with V. Calzolaio); How We Will Be (Codice Edizioni, 2016, with L. De Biase); Imperfection. A Natural History (Cortina, 2019, MIT Press, 2022); The Earth After Us (Contrasto, 2019); Finitude (Cortina, 2020); Serendipity (Cortina, 2021); and Nature Is Bigger than Us (Solferino, 2022). He is director of Pikaia, the Italian website dedicated to evolution (www.pikaia.eu) and director of the University of Padua web magazine, Il Bo LIVE (https://ilbolive.unipd.it). He is also a columnist for Il Corriere della Sera, and the magazines Le Scienze and Micromega.

Assigned Reading

Telmo Pievani, Imperfection. A Natural History (MIT Press, 2022)


WCHP Lecture Hall in Parker Pavilion
716 Stevens Avenue
Portland, ME 04103
United States

Living with our Natural Imperfections Poster