Eva Boon
On Wednesday, 27 February 2019, at 13h30, Eva Boon (now Eindhoven University of Technology) will give a talk in the Blue Room (Linnaeusborg 571). Eva was among the first cohort of students of our topmaster programme Evolutionary Biology. Having started in Marine Biology, she became more and more interested in the microbiome, horizontal gene transfer, and the evolution of individuality. After having obtained a PhD in Biology from the University of Montreal in 2012 (on the evolution of inter-genomic variation in arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi), Eva became more and more interested in the philosophy of science. At present, she is finalizing a second doctoral dissertation in philosophy (on the foundations of the theory of cultural evolution).

When philosophy and biology meet – On the evolutionary individuality of biofilms

Abstract: In this talk, I explore how combining work from philosophy of science and biology can help understand complex evolutionary questions. As a case study, I explore recent discussions on the status of biofilms as evolutionary individuals. From a biological perspective, data on biofilms is abundant. However, high functional integration within the microbial communities that form biofilms makes it hard to decide whether such a community should be considered as an evolutionary individual, or as a ‘mere’ collection of individual cells. From a philosophical point of view, either interpretation is a theoretical possibility: the challenge lies in connecting these possibilities to actual biological studies on biofilms. By investigating the evolutionary concepts of heredity and selection, I argue that the interpretation of these concepts is key in how biologists draw conclusions from their data. The reverse is also the case: philosophers of science rely heavily on their interpretation of the biological literature when they elaborate their conceptual analyses and argue in favour of or against a particular interpretation of above evolutionary concepts. I conclude with some practical recommendations on how a combined philosophical and biological approach can complement either research effort, and lead to more fruitful discussions in both areas of investigation to boot.