Multilevel Selection, Evolutionary Transitions in Individuality & The Concept of Individuality

Over the last few years, I have been working on multilevel selection and, in collaboration with evolutionary biologists, on the so-called evolutionary transitions in individuality (ETIs). The problem of whether selection acts at more than one level, such as the level of gene, or the level of the orgism, is a central topic in philosophy of biology. A classical response to the debate is to say that levels of selection are a matter of conventions rather than facts. In a recent book, I tackle this issue and argue that the conventional response is not fully adequate. There is a sense in which it can be objectively said that natural selection act at one level rather than the other. I develop an account that can be operationalised and applied in the context of ETIs which have become, in recent years, the focus of the multilevel selection literature. Briefly, ETIs are major events in the course of evolution. They include, non-exhaustively, the transition from unicellular to multicellular organisms, the transition from the prokaryotic to the eukoryotic cell or the transition from simple replicators to chromosomes-like entities.

This is the topic of two grants I currently hold: a DECRA from the ARC, and grant from the John Templeton Foundation as part of the Agency, Directionality, and Functon project hosted by the University of Minnesota.

Pierrick Bourrat
Pierrick Bourrat
Senior Lecturer & DECRA Fellow

My research interests include the concepts of evolutionary theory, causation and the interplay between biological and cultural evolution.