Biological Interest Group

Meeting time: Friday mornings 10:15-11:30 am Central time
Meeting place: Hybrid format: 737 Heller Hall and online via Zoom.

The biological interest group (BIG) reads and discusses works of mutual interest in the history and philosophy of biology. We select readings for a variety of reasons: to keep up on the most exciting developments in the field, to help participants scrutinize literature relevant to their research projects (faculty or graduate student research), to provide feedback on works in progress being written by BIG participants (graduate students, faculty, and Center visitors), to revisit classic articles in the literature, and sometimes just to have fun discussing a topic related to biology. For more information, please contact Alan Love (

Our meetings are informal and some participants need to arrive late or leave early because of scheduling conflicts. All faculty from the University of Minnesota and area colleges and universities and graduate students are welcome to attend whenever they would like (without invitation) and without giving advanced notice. Undergraduates are included by invitation. (If you know of an undergraduate who is well-suited and possibly interested, please contact Alan Love at so an invitation can be extended.)

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Spring 2024

January 19: Donoghue, P.C.J., C. Kay, A. Spang, G. Szollosi, A. Nenarokova, E.R.R. Moody, D. Pisani, and T.A. Williams. 2023. Defining eukaryotes to dissect eukaryogenesis. Current Biology 33:R919–R929.

January 26: Newman, S.A. 2023. Inherency and agency in the origin and evolution of biological functions. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 139(4):487–502. Stuart Newman will be leading the discussion.

February 2: McLaughlin, J.F., K.M. Brock, I. Gates, A. Pethkar, M. Piattoni, A. Rossi, and S.E. Lipshutz. 2023. Multivariate models of animal sex: Breaking binaries leads to a better understanding of ecology and evolution. Integrative and Comparative Biology 63(4):891–906.

February 9: Clark, C.J., L. Jussimc, K. Frey, S.T. Stevens, M. al-Gharbie. et al. 2023. Prosocial motives underlie scientific censorship by scientists: A perspective and research agenda. Proceedings of the National academy of Sciences 120(48):e2301642120.

February 16: Roth-Nebelsick, A. 2022. How much biology is in the product? Role and relevance of biological evolution and function for bio‑inspired design. Theory in Biosciences 141:233–247. (pdf)

February 23: Jernvall, J., N. Di‐Poï, M.L. Mikkola, and C.F. Kratochwil. 2023. Toward a universal measure of robustness across model organs and systems. Evolution & Development 25:410–417.

March 1: No Meeting

March 8: No Meeting - Spring Break

March 15: Wong, M.L., C.E. Cleland, D. Arend, S. Bartlett, H.J. Cleaves, H. Demarest, A. Prabhua, J.I. Lunineg, and R.M. Hazen. 2023. On the roles of function and selection in evolving systems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 120(43):e2310223120.

March 22: Kovaka, K. (draft manuscript) What is Meta-Analysis Good For? (pdf)
Karen Kovaka (Philosophy, University of California San Diego) will be attending.

March 29:  Torsell, C. and Barrett, J.A. (manuscript) Learning how to Learn by Self-tuning Reinforcement.  Jeffrey Barrett (Philosophy, University of California Irvine) will be attending. (pdf)

April 5: Messeri, L. and M.J. Crockett. 2024. Artificial intelligence and illusions of understanding in scientific research. Nature 627:49–58. (pdf)

April 12: Benning, J.W., J. Carlson, R.G. Shaw, and A. Harpak (manuscript) Confounding Fuels Hereditarian Fallacies. (pdf)

April 19: Chastain, H. manuscript The Multiple Decision Making Systems Confronts the Construct of Utility (pdf)

April 26: Elewa, A. manuscript Beyond Waddington and Wolpert: On the Biological Implications of Embryo Computability (pdf)

Fall 2023

Please join our mailing list for the zoom invitation or email

September 8: Kampourakis, K. and E.L Peterson. 2023. The racist origins, racialist connotations, and purity assumptions of the concept of “admixture” in human evolutionary genetics. Genetics 223 (3):iyad002.

September 15: Matthiessen, D. in preparation. Crystallizing techniques: Procedural knowledge, empirical constraints, and blood crystal research in the nineteenth century.

September 22: Fromonteil, S., L. Marie-Orleach, L. Winkler, and T. Janicke. 2023. Sexual selection in females and the evolution of polyandry. PLoS Biology 21(1):e3001916.

September 29: Diogo, R., A. Adesomo, K.S. Farmer, R.J. Kim, and F. Jackson. 2023. Not just in the past: Racist and sexist biases still permeate biology, anthropology, medicine, and education. Evolutionary Anthropology 32:67-82.

October 6: Sarkar, S. 2023. That was the Philosophy of Biology that was: Mainx, Woodger, Nagel, and Logical Empiricism, 1929–1961. Biological Theory 18:153–174.

October 13: Rifkin, M.J. and J. Garson. 2023. Sex by design: a new account of the animal sexes. Biology & Philosophy 38:13.

October 20: Griffiths, P.E. 2022. What are biological sexes?

October 27: Haddad, Y. 2023. The epistemic harms of direct-to-consumer genetic tests. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy.

November 3: Rock, R.R. and P.J. Turnbaugh. 2023. Forging the microbiome to help us live long and prosper. PLoS Biology 21(4): e3002087.

November 10:  Houle, D., C. Pélabon, G.P. Wagner and T.F. Hansen. 2011. Measurement and meaning in biology. The Quarterly Review of Biology 86(1):3-34. 
Eran Tal, Philosophy, McGill University will be visiting

November 17: Wilson, D.S., G. Madhavanc, M.J. Gelfandd, S.C. Hayese, P.W.B. Atkinsa, and R.R. Colwell. 2023. Multilevel cultural evolution: From new theory to practical applications. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 120(16):e2218222120.

November 24: No meeting Thanksgiving break

December 1: Hallsworth, M. 2023. A manifesto for applying behavioural science. Nature Human Behaviour 7:310–322.

December 8: Burt, C.H. 2023. Challenging the utility of polygenic scores for social science: Environmental confounding, downward causation, and unknown biology. Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

Previous BIG topics