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Biological Interest Group

Meeting time: Friday mornings throughout the semester at 10:15–11:30 am.
Meeting place: Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science library,
737 Heller Hall.

The biological interest group (BIG) reads and discusses works of mutual interest in the history and philosophy of biology. We select readings for a variety of reasons: to keep up on the most exciting developments in the field, to help participants scrutinize literature relevant to their research projects (faculty or graduate student research), to provide feedback on works in progress being written by BIG participants (graduate students, faculty, and Center visitors), to revisit classic articles in the literature, and sometimes just to have fun discussing a topic related to biology.

Our meetings are informal and some participants need to arrive late or leave early because of scheduling conflicts. All faculty from the University of Minnesota and area colleges and universities and graduate students are welcome to attend whenever they would like (without invitation) and without giving advanced notice. Undergraduates are included by invitation. (If you know of an undergraduate who is well-suited and possibly interested, please contact Alan Love so an invitation can be extended.)

Spring 2017

January 20: Piven, Joseph, Elison, Jed T. and Zylka, Mark J. (preprint) "Towards a Conceptual Framework for Early Brain and Behavior Development in Autism" (pdf)
Jed Elison, Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota will be visiting.

January 27: Haber, M.H. 2012. "Multilevel Lineages and Multidimensional Trees: The Levels of Lineage and Phylogeny Reconstruction" Philosophy of Science,79(5): 609–623. (pdf)
Matt Haber, Philosophy, University of Utah will be visiting

February 3: Arenas-Mean, C. 2017. The origins of developmental gene regulation. Evolution & Development. (pdf)

February 10: Housden, B.E., Muhar, M., Gemberling, M., Gersbach, C.A., Stainier, D.Y.R., Seydoux, G., Mohr, S.E., Zuber, J., Perrimon, N. 2017. Loss-of-function genetic tools for animal models: cross-species and cross-platform differences. Nature Reviews Genetics 18:24-40. (

February 17: Wilson, M.L. (draft) "Can Darwinism provide a satisfactory foundation for ethics? Reflections from field research on chimpanzees" (pdf)
Michael Wilson
will be visiting

February 24: Beatty, J. 2016. The Creativity of Natural Selection? Part I: Darwin, Darwinism, and the Mutationists. Journal of the History of Biology 49:659–684. (pdf)

March 3: Holding, M.L., D.H. Drabeck, S.A. Jansa, and H.L. Gibbs. 2016. Venom Resistance as a Model for Understanding the Molecular Basis of Complex Coevolutionary Adaptations. Integrative and Comparative Biology 56:1032–1043. (pdf)
Danielle Drabeck
will be visiting

March 10: No meeting

March 17: No meeting

March 24: Amir, A. 2017. Is cell size a spandrel? eLife 6:e22186;
Koonin, E.V. 2016. Splendor and misery of adaptation, or the importance of neutral null for understanding evolution. BMC Biology 14:114.

March 31: Austin, C.J. 2016. The ontology of organisms: Mechanistic modules or patterned processes? Biology & Philosophy 31:639–662. (pdf)

April 7: Lloyd, E.A. forthcoming."Holobionts as Units of Selection: Holobionts as Interactors, Reproducers, and Manifestors of Adaptation". In: Landscapes of Collectivity in the Life Sciences, eds. S.B. Gissis, E. Lamm, and A. Shavit. MIT Press. (pdf)

April 14: Whipple, M. and Jutkowitz, E. Draft paper. "Examining Gerontologists’ Perceptions of Evidence in Aging" (pdf).
Eric Jutkowitz, Mary Whipple, and Mary Butler (Center on Aging) will be visiting.

April 21: Tabb, K. 2016. Darwin at Orchis Bank: Selection after the Origin. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 55:11-20. (pdf).Kathryn Tabb, Philosophy, Columbia University will be visiting

April 28: No meeting

May 5: Scott-Phillips, T.C., Laland, K.N., Shuker, D.M., Dickins, T.E. and S.A. West. 2014. The Niche Construction Perspective: A Critical Appraisal. Evolution 68: 1231–1243.
Ben Kerr
will be visiting

Fall 2016

September 9: No meeting

September 16: Tamborini, M. 2015. Paleontology and Darwin’s theory of evolution: the subversive role of statistics at the end of the 19th Century. Journal of the History of Biology 48:575–612.

September 23: Baetu, T. in press. The ‘Big Picture’: The Problem of Extrapolation in Basic Research. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
Robyn Bluhm (Lyman Briggs College, Michigan State University) will be visiting.

September 30: Liu, Chang C., and Peter G. Schultz. 2010. Adding New Chemistries to the Genetic Code. Annual Review of Biochemistry 79:413–444.

October 7: Barker, J.L., and J.L. Bronstein. 2016." Temporal structure in cooperative interactions: what does the timing of exploitation tell us about its cost?" PLoS Biology 14(2):e1002371.

October 14: Pavlićev, M, Wagner G, 2016. The evolutionary origin of female
orgasm. J. Exp. Zool. (Mol. Dev. Evol.) 326B:326–337.
Günter Wagner
(Yale University) will be visiting

October 21: Shapiro, B.J., J.-B. Leducq, and J. Mallet. 2016. "What Is Speciation?" PLoS Genetics 12 (3):e1005860

October 28: Johnson, A., A.A. Fenton, C. Kentros, and A.D. Redish. 2009. Looking for cognition in the structure within the noise. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 13:55-64.
David Redish (Neuroscience) will be visiting

November 4: No meeting

November 11: Ebach, M.C., and M.S. Michael. 2016. From correlation to causation: what do we need in the historical sciences? Acta Biotheoretica 64:241-262.

November 18: P.E. Smaldino, R. McElreath (2016). The natural selection of bad science. Royal Society Open Science 3:160384.

November 25: No Meeting

December 2: Haslanger, S. 2016. Theorizing with a purpose: the many kinds of sex. In C. Kendig (ed.), Natural Kinds and Classification in Scientific Practice. New York: Routledge, pp. 129–144.

December 9: Sarewitz, D. 2016. Saving Science. The New Atlantis (Spring/Summer 2016): 5-40.

Previous BIG discussion topics

For more information: contact Janet McKernan or Alan Love

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