“Ecological Scaffolding and Natural Selection” by Walter Veit (Bristol, Philosophy)
Date: Thursday, 16 May, 2019
Abstract: For decades Darwinian processes were framed in the form of the Lewontin conditions: reproduction, variation and differential reproductive success were taken to be sufficient and necessary. Since Buss (1987) and the work of Maynard Smith and Szathmáry (1995) biologists were eager to explain the major transitions from individuals to groups forming new individuals subject to Darwinian mechanisms themselves. Explanations that seek to explain the emergence of a new level of selection, however, cannot employ properties that would already have to exist on that level for selection to take place. Recently, Hammerschmidt et al. (2014) provided a ‘bottom-up’ experiment corroborating much of the theoretical work Paul Rainey has done since 2003 on how cheats can play an important role in the emergence of new Darwinian individuals on a multicellular level. The aims of this paper are twofold. First, I argue for a conceptual shift in perspective from seeing cheats as (i) a ‘problem’ that needs to be solved for multi-cellularity to evolve to (ii) the very ‘key’ for the evolution of multicellularity. Secondly, I illustrate the consequence of this shift for both theoretical and experimental work, arguing for a more prominent role of ecology and the multi-level selection framework within the debate then they currently occupy.
About the speaker: Walter Veit is currently a graduate student at the University of Bristol studying Philosophy of Biology and Cognitive Sciences. Before that, he studied Philosophy & Economics at the University of Bayreuth, with some minor interruptions – an internship at the European Parliament, a research project at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology and a semester abroad at the University of Helsinki.
Web: www.phil.bilkent.edu.tr  Facebook: www.facebook.com/bilkent.philosophy