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Walsh Denis | Fellow Visitor
2009-09-27 - 2009-10-01 | Research area: Philosophy of Biology
Organisms: A Philosophical Introduction
There could be no more obvious a truism than that biology is the study of living things—organisms. And yet, there is a strong sense in which modern evolutionary biology is not about organisms at all. Our current best theory of evolution deals in supra-organismal assemblages (populations) of sub-organismal entities (genes or replicators). Indeed, in the 150 years since The Origin of Species biology has been marked by two related trends, the dramatic growth in the power and breadth of evolutionary thinking and the marginalization of organisms. This latter trend has been celebrated by some, lamented by a few, but, remarkably, overlooked by most. The reasons for the loss of organisms are varied and complex; they are empirical, historical, and philosophical. This project explores them and it outlines an alternative conception of evolutionary biology in which organisms play an ineliminable explanatory role. These issues are only now beginning to attract interest in both evolutionary biology and philosophy. So this project will constitute a timely introduction to a vibrant, growing debate.