University of Toronto philosopher of biology professor Denis Walsh co-authored a paper recently published in BioEssays. Titled "Bridging the explanatory gaps: What can we learn from a biological agency perspective?" the authors "discuss how incorporating agency helps to bridge explanatory gaps left by conventional approaches, highlight scientific fields in which implicit agency approaches are already proving valuable, and assess the opportunities and challenges of more systematically incorporating biological agency into research programs."
PI Alan Love has published a co-authored review article in Cambridge University Press' Paleobiology journal. "There exist a variety of strategic possibilities for combining prominent neontological approaches to evolvability with those from paleontology. We illustrate three of these possibilities with quantitative genetics, evolutionary developmental biology, and phylogenetic models of macroevolution."
"Function, persistence, and selection: generalizing the selected-effect account of function adequately." Pierrick Bourrat writes in the December 2021 issue of Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A: Some selection processes are evolutionarily more or less interesting and that when a selection process is regarded as evolutionarily uninteresting, it will yield an uninteresting form of function rather than a reason for withholding the concept of function altogether.
On 27 October 2021, Charbel N. El-Hani and Claudio R. M. Reis, from the subaward "Toward a science of intrinsic purposiveness: an organizational account of ecological functions and its implications to ecological research and environmental ethics" published a paper in Philosophy World Democracy in which they embed the organicist philosophical bases followed in the project into a broader epistemological view on the goals of scientific research and different value outlooks.
The paper takes as a point of departure the well-accepted thesis that scientific research is an inherently social and plural activity, from where it proceeds to a discussion on the relationships between the goals of scientific investigation, research strategies, and value outlooks. They first describe dominant strategies and goals since the origins of modern science, and then discuss an alternative view on these goals and strategies that may bring science to be committed to a broader array of value outlooks and research strategies, combining decontextualized and context-sensitive strategies, and increasingly connecting scientific research to value outlooks related to the sustainability of socioecological systems, democratic participation, social justice, and the common good.
Finally, they articulate how organicist thinking can be connected to such a broader array of value outlooks and research strategies. The articulation of these goals of investigation, value outlooks, and research strategies are the core of the subaward conception of research and its social responsibility.
The research groups of Tobias Uller and Charlie Cornwallis are recruiting a fully-funded researcher in evolutionary biology. The project aims to use microalgae and experimental evolution to study evolvability. Theory predicts that selection in variable environments can modify gene regulatory networks to make new genetic mutants with desirable trait combinations appear more frequently. This, in turn, could potentially facilitate the response to selection in more extreme environments. This project will test this theory using a combination of experimental evolution, phenotypic and genetic engineering, and analyses of metabolic, transcriptomic and genomic data. The project is part of an international research programme that provides opportunities for career development. The starting date is negotiable and funding is available for three years. The full job description is here.
Deadline: 13 December 2021