Writer | Historian | Journalist
I am a writer, historian, and journalist, and most of my work centers on the epistemology of democracy. Some people call me a professional pain in the ass, and I think that's fair; I'm always working to find out what's true in the hope it will lead us to treat each other better. I'm the inaugural winner of the Courage Award from the Heterodox Academy, and I've also won awards for research, writing, teaching, and public service.
My bylines include the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, WIRED, Slate, the Atlantic, Pacific Standard, Aeon Magazine, the Chronicle of Higher Education, New Statesman, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune. My books have been published by Penguin Press, Harvard University Press, Cambridge University Press, and Amazon Kindle Singles. Lately my most frequent byline is in East Lansing Info, a local news organization I founded to try to rescue local news in my city and in America more generally.
My best known book is Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and One Scholar’s Search for Justice, which argues that the pursuit of evidence is the most important ethical imperative of our time. Funded by a Guggenheim Fellowship and published by Penguin Press, the book has been praised in reviews in The New Yorker, Nature, Science, Forbes, New York Magazine, Human Nature, and Salon. It was named an “Editor’s Choice” by The New York Times Book Review and has been recommended by Steve Pinker, Dan Savage, Jared Diamond, and E.O. Wilson (read more). In conjunction with that work, the Chronicle of Higher Education called me a “star scholar” and described my writing as “reliably funny and passionate and vulnerable.”
The work I do is often aimed at getting past partisan politics. The result is being attacked by partisans. I can handle it, and in fact I find it amusing that, at this point, I've been denounced by both Rush Limbaugh and the Lambda Literary Foundation. The Intellectual Dark Web tried to absorb me after I was protested at Wellesley College's Freedom Project, and I resigned my position at Northwestern's medical school after my dean censored my work (oral sex!) and instituted a censorship committee for our faculty journal. (Yes, he did.) But, hey, what doesn't kill me makes me drink. And go running.
I earned my Ph.D. in History and Philosophy of Science from Indiana University, where my work was supported by a Charlotte Newcombe Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. Since then, I've often been called a public intellectual, in part because I have simultaneously published widely-cited major original work in scholarly journals and high-visibility essays in the mainstream press. Young people know me for having live-tweeted my son's abstinence sex ed class, a viral tweet storm that was funny at the time, but that got me banned from the high school. (It also made me finally popular in high school, albeit at the age of 48.)
I live mostly to write, so I'm happy to say my writing has been selected for Norton's annual Best Creative Non-Fiction volume ("Lavish Dwarf Entertainment") and that I've won other writing awards, including a very pretty butter dish from the journal Perspectives in Biology and Medicine and the book-of-the-year award for nonfiction from the Society of Midland Authors. The American Philosophical Association calls me a philosopher of note in the "writing" category, and John Green has named my book One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal as among his favorites. The same book has been praised by Jeffrey Eugenides and Abraham Verghese and was honored by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights.
Years ago, the UTNE Reader named me a "visionary," which I think means I'm always a little too early on the curve to profit. I am also a recipient of an Outstanding Leadership Award in Comprehensive Sexuality Education from SIECUS, Planned Parenthood, Advocates for Youth, GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network), and the Healthy Teen Network.
I frequently deliver keynotes and plenaries, and to date have given about 200 invited lectures. My TEDx lecture, Is Anatomy Destiny, has been viewed over a million times, and I have appeared as a guest expert on hundreds of media programs, including on Oprah, Savage Love, Good Morning America, and NPR, and in many original documentaries, including for A&E, ABC, Discovery, PBS, and HBO.
A native of New York, I now live in East Lansing, Michigan, although my neighbors will tell you I'm still a New Yorker. That's okay; every small midwestern city needs at least one.
Not everything on this site is up to date. I'm busy. Let me know if you can't find something.
Photograph by Harley J. Seeley, copyright Alice Dreger 2017.