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Scott Turner

Department of Environmental & Forest Biology
SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry

The problem of biological design: how to build the nexus of physiology and evolution

December 7, 2007
Lecture Hall 8, 4:00 PM

Abstract

Why are organisms built well for the things they do, i.e. why do they appear to be designed? Neo-Darwinism holds that biological design emerges from the progressive selection of “good function” genes. Genes operate in a broader context of physiology, however, and no comprehensive theory of biological design (or, by implication, adaptation or evolution) is possible without taking this context into account. Integrating physiology and Darwinism opens fundamental questions into the nature of hereditary memory, the origins of form and fitness, and the fundamental intentionality of the living world. In addition, Scott will give a noon talk in Science III, rm 214 titled “The ‘airconditioned termite nest’ revisited: homeostasis and morphogenesis of an organ of extended physiology.”

Biography

Scott Turner (Ph.D., Associate Professor, SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry, Syracuse, New York) is a physiologist and ecologist by training and an evolutionary biologist by inclination. He has held positions at Duke University, Franklin and Marshall College, the University at Buffalo, and the University of Cape Town. Since 1990, he has been on the biology faculty at the SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry. His research interests are broadly concerned with the physiological interface between organisms and their physical environment, which has focused for the past several years on the structures built by animals and in the origin and meaning of biological design.

Readings

  1. Homeostasis, complexity, and the problem of biological design
  2. Extended phenotypes and extended organisms

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