Niall Shanks, 1959-2011

Very sorry to learn this morning of the death of an old friend and colleague, Professor Niall Shanks. [Obit]

Dr. Niall Shanks (b. January 18, 1959), who served as President of the Tennessee Philosophical Association in 1993, died early Wednesday morning, July 13, 2011.  In 2005, Dr. Shanks became the Curtis D. Gridley Distinguished Professor in the History and Philosophy of Science at Wichita State University. He received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Leeds in 1979, a Master’s from the University of Liverpool in 1981, and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Alberta in 1987. Dr. Shanks was Professor of Philosophy & Humanities and Adjunct Professor of Biological Sciences and Physics & Astronomy during his career at East Tennessee State University from 1991-2005.  Shanks’ early research focused on quantum mechanics, but later his interest centered on evolutionary biology and its implications for medical theory and practice. He was the author of numerous articles and books in the history and philosophy of science, including the highly popular book entitled, “God, the Devil, and Darwin: A Critique of Intelligent Design Theory” (Forward by Richard Dawkins, Oxford University Press, 2004/2007). His service to our community and universities and his contributions to science and philosophy will continue to inspire, enthuse, and enthrall us. He will long be remembered and missed by his many students, colleagues, and friends.

We taught together in Johnson City, Tennessee in 1992-93. He was acerbic but ultimately funny and good-humored about living in the Appalachian wing of the Bible Belt. (“I am what my neighbors call a ‘ferner,’ for I am a transplanted Englishman who grew up in Manchester in the north of England“-Fighting For Our Sanity in East Tennessee) He was a good office mate and pub companion. I gave him a tour of Vanderbilt in 1993, just before he insulted the keynote speaker and the night before he preceded me in election as president of the Tennessee Philosophical Association. He advised me not to hide my talents under a bushel basket.

We exchanged just a couple of notes after he landed in Kansas in 2005. He had a strange repulsion/attraction to the heartland of creationism, he admitted. I miss him.

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