Current Research Interests

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For the past several years, the primary focus of my work has been on relationship of contemporary research in evolutionary and developmental biology to long-standing questions in the philosophy of biology. I have been working on this topic both alone and with Massimo Pigliucci, a professor in the departments of botany and of ecology and evolutionary biology at SUNY Stony brook. Most recently, Prof. Pigliucci and I published Making Sense of Evolution (Chicago University Press).  In Making Sense of Evolution, we argue for the importance of finding definitions and uses of the key concepts in evolutionary biology that cohere with each other and with contemporary biological practice, and we present one such set.  In addition, we have co-authored several papers related to this project. These include, for example, a short retrospective piece on the twenty years of research since Gould and Lewontin's famous "Spandrels" paper, has been published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution in February of 2000 (abstract) and a much longer and more technical piece on the concept of a gene (or genes) being 'for' a high-level phenotypic trait, was published in Biology and Philosophy in March of 2001 (abstract). We have presented papers relating some of this material to contemporary attempts to understand human behavior as a part of a symposium titled "Broad Theories and Human Behaviors" at the Philosophy of Science Association's 2000 meeting, and presented another paper related to this area "On the Concept of Biological Race and its Applicability to Humans" at the 2002 meeting of the PSA; this has since  been published in Philosophy of Science. I have also completed a number of papers directly related to the work I've been doing with Prof. Pigliucci; see my CV for more details.


At this time, I am pursuing several lines of research related to these issues.  These include for example exploring the relationship between developmental and evolutionary biology, especially with respect to the (possible) importance of non-genetic heritable variations in developmental resources for evolutionary innovations and rethinking the requirements of multicelluarilty given the importance of symbiosis in biofilms.

 


Finally, I am just starting to work on projects related to a long-standing interest of mine, namely the relationship between liberalism, democracy, and global development issues.  Can global development take place in ways that are not 'imperialist'?  Should we care?  What are the proper goals of global development?  What happens when democracy and liberal ideals come into conflict?  I don't have any real answers yet, but I find the questions compelling...  I've published a paper on a related topic (restricting imports on the basis of the methods used in their production) Public Affairs Quarterly (November, 2001) (abstract) and I look forward to further work on this topic.


 

Last Updated: January 2007