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March 21, 2011

James Evans to Deliver Levine – de Beer Genetics Lecture April 5

Dr. James Evans

Dr. James Evans, Bryson Distinguished Professor of Genetics and Medicine at the University of North Carolina

Talk to Address Misunderstanding of Science, its Consequences and Solutions

Dr. James Evans, Bryson Distinguished Professor of Genetics and Medicine at the University of North Carolina, will deliver the Louis Levine–Gabriella de Beer Lecture in Genetics at The City College of New York 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 5.  

Professor Evans will discuss the pervasive misunderstanding of science, its consequences and solutions—particularly for medicine.  Titled “The Power, Demands and Limits of Science: A Cautionary Tale for Policy Makers, Health Care Professionals and The Public,” the lecture is free and open to the public.  He will speak in the Great Hall of Shepard Hall, 160 Convent Avenue, New York.

About the Talk
Science is not a belief system.  Yet this all-to-common concept  – promulgated on talk radio and in policy hearings  – is one that the public and even physicians and scientists, often fail to grasp, asserts Dr. Evans.  This is just one example of how the meaning of science is often obscured.

In his lecture, Dr. Evans will explore the history and meaning of science.  He will describe the problems inherent in – and the serious consequences of  – its misapplication in medicine and other arenas.  He will also offer concrete ideas to prevent such pitfalls and improve our ability to harness science.

Because of fundamental aspects in the way we think, it is difficult to apply science in the realm of clinical medicine, Dr. Evans says.  “We as humans, unless we are careful, can be fooled by random fluctuations and miss larger patterns.”

Evidence-based medicine is meant to counteract these tendencies, but the allure of the “good idea” can take its place and end up causing harm, he explains.  Misunderstanding the difference between the relative and absolute risk of contracting a given genetic disorder, for example, or assuming benefit in an untested therapy, can carry dire consequences.  “Logic and common sense are seductive and – when we don’t rigorously apply science – can really lead us astray,” he adds.

About Dr. James P. Evans
Currently the Bryson Distinguished Professor of Genetics and Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Dr. Evans also directs adult and cancer genetics services there and is clinically active in genetics and general medicine.  He serves as editor-in-chief of “Genetics in Medicine,” the official journal of the American College of Medical Genetics. His research interests span cancer genetics, pharmacogenomics and issues related to how genetic information is used and perceived.

Dr. Evans also has been intensely involved in shaping governmental policy issues regarding genetic and scientific matters.  He has served as an advisor to the U.S. secretary of health and human services on genetics, health and society for seven years, has testified before Congress, advised the Government Accountability Office on the regulation of genetic testing, educated high court judges on genetic and scientific matters and was a principal organizer for a United Nations conference in Chile to address global scientific disparities.

About the Louis Levine – Gabriella de Beer Lecture in Genetics
The Louis Levine – Gabriella de Beer Lecture in Genetics was established by Gabriella de Beer in memory of her husband, Professor Louis Levine, who taught in the Department of Biology and the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education.  A graduate of City College, he earned his PhD in population genetics under the late, great evolutionary geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky at Columbia University. Professor Levine’s research focused on population studies of Drosophila and the behavioral genetics of mice.  The event is administered through The City College Fund.  The City College Fund raises money to support programs and activities at CCNY through annual giving, special scholarship projects, and fundraising events.

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