I’m Holly Elmore. I’m a grad student at Harvard in the Department of Organismic & Evolutionary Biology. My adviser is the legendary David Haig. I aspire to be like him and work on what he calls “the fundamental interconnectedness of all things,” but I do work on particular things: evolutionary genetics and genomics, molecular biology, bioinformatics, phylogenetics, mycology, and I dabble in evolutionary psychology. Check out my academic publications and cite me, you know, if I’m relevant.
I care passionately about the truth, not just at work as a scientist but in all aspects of my life. I think the truth about ethics is basically utilitarianism, so I do my best to maximize utility and reduce suffering. I’m part of Effective Altruism, which for me means a commitment to trying to do maximal good. I am an organizer and former president of Harvard University Effective Altruism student group. I’ve taken the Giving What We Can pledge to donate a percentage of my income to effective charities every year. I’m vegan and give about half of my donations to effective animal charities, because animal suffering matters. A lot of the writing here explores these ethical topics. My first commitment, though, above all I just listed, is to keeping an open mind so that I’m as in touch as possible with the truth of how to do the most good. The second commitment is to be willing to update my behavior based on that information, so my particular good practices may change in future.
I am in ongoing treatment for a mood disorder, and I have a lot of thoughts about the experience. Over the years, the blog has become more and more devoted to essays and reflections on personal psychological growth. The beliefs and commitments I listed above are not always easy psychologically, and I explore that here as well.
The goal of this blog is to be a place where I can work through ideas, letting the knowledge that others will see what I write draw more out of me and force me to see the issue more deeply and freshly. Thank you for helping me in my creative process. I’m proud of my work and feel gratified when people look at it, but the goal is to create a space for thinking and writing, not to make a product or build an audience (these goals don’t lead to very good reading for the audience, either, in my opinion). Therefore, I’m not too fussed about consistency in when I post or across posts, and I will repeat myself a lot.
Btw, most of the photos on the site were taken by me!