4th March 2021: Research seminar online - Adrian Stencel (Jagiellonian University), Javier Suárez (Jagiellonian University): When you are forced to being nice. Multicellularity is more about coercion than about altruism
We have the pleasure to invite you for a research seminar in the ‘BIOUNCERTAINTY’ research project. The seminar will take place on Thursday, March 4th, at 5:30pm on MS Teams (link below).
Abstract: The use of agency metaphors in biology is a popular tool as they help guiding research. For instance, in evolutionary biology researchers often say that genes are “selfish” units that pursue their aims and goals. The work of philosophers is to analyze the adequacy of these metaphors. A popular agential idea is to think that somatic cells, responsible for maintaining the functionality of the organism, but incapable of transmitting their genes to the next generation, are altuists. They sacrifice their ‘life” on behalf of the germline cells, where the capacity to transmit genes to the next generation ultimately lies.
What explains the use of this metaphor? One conventional answer refers to inclusive fitness (or kin selection) theory, according to which somatic cells sacrifice themselves altruistically, because they are genetically related to germline cells. Given this genetic relatedness, their sacrifice enhances the transmission of their genes to the next generation, insofar as they are genetic clones of the germline cells. In this talk, we analyze kin selection theory and the mechanisms of the development of multicellular organisms and conclude that this explanation ignores the key role of policing mechanisms in maintaining the germ/soma divide. We conclude that it is better to think of somatic cells as victims of coercion that are forced to sacrifice, rather than as altruists
Adrian Stencel works at the Institute of Philosophy of the Jagiellonian University. He is interested mainly in philosophy of biology, with strong interest in the conceptual and foundational issues surrounding the theory of evolution, population biology and microbiology.
Javier Suárez works at the Institute of Philosophy of the Jagiellonian University. He is also the Principal Investigator of the project MULTISPECIES at the Jagiellonian University. His main interests include general topics in philosophy of science (causation, modelling, explanation, scientific classification) and, particularly, in philosophy of biology and medicine, with special emphasis on the biological and philosophical implications of the pervasiveness of symbiosis in nature and the hologenome concept of evolution.