•  8
    If ecological systems are functionally organised, they can possess functions or malfunctions. Natural function would provide justification for conservationists to act for the protection of current ecological arrangements and control the presence of populations that create ecosystem malfunctions. Invasive species are often thought to be malfunctional for ecosystems, so functional arrangement would provide an objective reason for their control. Unfortunately for this prospect, I argue no theory of…Read more
  •  7
    Can communities cause?
    Biology and Philosophy 34 (6): 59. 2019.
    Lynch et al. propose an extremely useful framework to assess microbiome research. By utilising advances in the causation literature, they argue that many of the claims in microbiome research are ‘weak or misleading’ as these claims lack stability, specificity, or proportionality. In the final paragraph before the conclusion they entertain and rapidly dismiss the ‘ecological version’ of microbiomes, in which microbiome properties are emergent from their constituent populations and can fulfil Koch…Read more
  •  116
    Ecological Kinds and the Units of Conservation
    Dissertation, The Australian National University . 2018.
    Conservation has often been conducted with the implicit internalization of Aldo Leopold’s claim: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community.” This position has been found to be problematic as ecological science has not vindicated the ecological community as an entity which can be stable or coherent. Ecological communities do not form natural kinds, and this has forced ecological scientists to explain ecology in a different manner. Indi…Read more
  •  287
  •  27
    Indexically Structured Ecological Communities
    Philosophy of Science 85 (3): 501-522. 2018.
    Ecological communities are seldom, if ever, biological individuals. They lack causal boundaries as the populations that constitute communities are not congruent and rarely have persistent functional roles regulating the communities’ higher-level properties. Instead we should represent ecological communities indexically, by identifying ecological communities via the network of weak causal interactions between populations that unfurl from a starting set of populations. This precisification of ecol…Read more
  •  22
    Biodiversity Realism: Preserving the tree of life
    Biology and Philosophy 32 (6): 1083-1103. 2017.
    Biodiversity is a key concept in the biological sciences. While it has its origin in conservation biology, it has become useful across multiple biological disciplines as a means to describe biological variation. It remains, however, unclear what particular biological units the concept refers to. There are currently multiple accounts of which biological features constitute biodiversity and how these are to be measured. In this paper, I draw from the species concept debate to argue for a set of de…Read more
  •  207
    The Value of Phylogenetic Diversity
    with James Maclaurin
    In R. Pellens P. Grandcolas (ed.), Biodiversity Conservation and Phylogenetic Systematics, Springer. 2016.
    This chapter explores the idea that phylogenetic diversity plays a unique role in underpinning conservation endeavour. The conservation of biodiversity is suffering from a rapid, unguided proliferation of metrics. Confusion is caused by the wide variety of contexts in which we make use of the idea of biodiversity. Characterisations of biodiversity range from all-variety-at-all-levels down to variety with respect to single variables relevant to very specific conservation contexts. Accepting biodi…Read more
  •  69
    The evolution of failure: explaining cancer as an evolutionary process
    with Anya Plutynski
    Biology and Philosophy 31 (1): 39-57. 2016.
    One of the major developments in cancer research in recent years has been the construction of models that treat cancer as a cellular population subject to natural selection. We expand on this idea, drawing upon multilevel selection theory. Cancer is best understood in our view from a multilevel perspective, as both a by-product of selection at other levels of organization, and as subject to selection at several levels of organization. Cancer is a by-product in two senses. First, cancer cells co-…Read more