Interdisciplinarity: goals and conditions

FINALLY PUBLISHED! “Our view of interdisciplinarity takes very seriously the long training any specialist has to undertake in order to acquire the huge knowledge and the tuned epistemological attitudes necessary to master his or her research methods and protocols. Indeed, we think that a successful interdisciplinary project would educate its participants into this respectful view […]

Lasting Teachings from Gregory Bateson

Abstract: Gregory Bateson’s thinking is an enduring source of renovation for our thinking. The deep effects of his writings are here exemplified by four key-words from his philosophical vocabulary: CREATURE, MAP, METAPHOR, and GRACE. The movements correlated with this key-words are explored in the different fields of pedagogy, biographical research, philosophy, natural sciences, psychological care. […]

Visualizing Macroevolution

The adaptive landscape is an important diagrammatic concept that was conceived in population genetics. During the Modern Synthesis, in the first half of the Twentieth Century, the landscape imagery was used to represent evolution on a large scale, aiding in the construction of a common language for a new evolutionary biology. Not only historic adaptive […]

Cultural Traits and Multidisciplinary Dialogue

…We have walked on a fine line: the notion of a cultural trait is interesting because it has something to say to many sciences, but, paradoxically, also because it generates harsh conflicts on top scientific journals more and more frequently. Historical linguistics and cultural evolution are two of many fields where these clashes happen, and […]

The goals and conditions of successful interdisciplinarity

In this conceptual analysis, we argue that the contemporary popularity of interdisciplinarity should be complemented by a deeper, critical reflection on its goals and on the conditions for its success. The goal of producing a surplus of knowledge should be interpreted as the production of new ways of thinking, and leave recognizable traces in the […]

Evolutionary Genetics and Cultural Traits

The chapter explains why evolutionary genetics – a mathematical body of theory developed since the 1910s – eventually got to deal with culture: the frequency dynamics of genes like “the lactase gene” in populations cannot be correctly modeled without including social transmission. While the body of theory requires specific justifications, for example meticulous legitimations of […]

The landscape metaphor in development

“It seems that the landscape metaphor will continue to stay with us, at least for a while”. We start defining a landscape as a function of multiple variables and show how this can be interpreted as a dynamical system. From the perspective of dynamical systems modelling, we move to analyze Waddington’s ‘epigenetic landscape’ and landscape […]

Boundaries, foundation, and physics of Babel: the interdisciplinary study of language

If, by ‘Babel’, we mean the set languages that have appeared in the world, we may want to research the ‘boundaries of Babel’ by asking whether the expansion of Babel is prevented (i.e., whether unobserved languages are impossible languages), and, if so, by which factors. The boundaries of Babel are being explored by partnerships of […]

Evolutionary explanation and bucket thinking

The hierarchical interplay between ecology and genealogy is a fundamental ingredient for the most compelling current explanations in evolutionary biology. Yet philosophy of biology has hardly welcomed a classic fundamental intuition by palaeontologist Niles Eldredge, i.e. the non-coincidence and interrelation between ecology and genealogy, and their interaction in a Sloshing Bucket fashion. Hierarchy Theory and […]

The hierarchy theory view of speciation

Hierarchy theory (e.g. Salthe 1985, Eldredge 1986) provides a unifying approach for representing the multi-level structure of the organic world and an explanatory framework for the wide range of natural phenomena. Its birthdate can be located in the 1980s, when evolutionary biologists began exploring in detail the nature of hierarchical systems as an approach to […]