New trends in evolutionary biology: biological, philosophical and social science perspectives

7-9 November 2016


Developments in evolutionary biology and adjacent fields have produced calls for revision of the standard theory of evolution, although the issues involved remain hotly contested. This scientific discussion meeting, organised in partnership with the British Academy, presented these developments and arguments and encouraged cross-disciplinary discussion. This involved the humanities and social sciences in order to provide further analytical perspectives and explore the social and philosophical implications.


Location: The Royal Society, London, UK
Organizers: Denis Noble, Nancy Cartwright, Sir Patrick Bateson, John Dupré & Kevin Laland

Workshop 1: Cause and process in evolution

11-14 May 2017


The aim of this workshop is to initiate close interaction and exchange between philosophers of science and biologists, both within the research programme and outside it, to reflect on the nature of causation in biological evolution. The EES has a different perspective on causation in evolution, and ascribes a greater range of processes evolutionary significance, than traditional perspectives. The workshop will set out to scrutinize these claims, with both philosophers (acting as independent arbiters) and non-project members (including non-sympathizers) present to ensure good debate.


The nature of these differences will be discussed and their implications for the structure of evolutionary theory will be drawn up. In addition to leading to a key synthetic publication, the discussion will effectively provide a guide for continued exchange between conceptual analysis and empirical and theoretical projects within the wider research programme, such that each can benefit from the other, in terms of interpretation and communication of results.


Twitter #CAPIE2017

Blog post by Wim Hordijk

KLI website


Location: KLI, Vienna, Austria
Organizers: Tobias Uller & Kevin Laland

Culture Conference 2017: Innovation in cultural systems – an interdisciplinary meeting

25-26 May 2017


Innovation in cultural systems – an interdisciplinary meeting is a two-day interdisciplinary conference sponsored by an ASAB Interdisciplinary Workshop grant and the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham. The conference will bring together researchers from different academic backgrounds together, from archaeology, anthropology, psychology, biology, animal behaviour and philosophy, to discuss recent theories, data, and ideas on innovation.


Innovation plays a critical role in the emergence and spread of new behaviours within both non-human and human culture but its role for cultural evolution has just started to become a focus of research. During the conference, we will discuss the following questions:


  • How can innovation be defined?
  • What is the role of innovation for cultural evolution and cumulative culture?
  • What do we know about processes of innovation?
  • What makes an ‘innovator’?


Location: University of Birmingham, UK
Organizers: Elisa Bandini & Eva Reindl
Abstract deadline: 1 April 2017
Registration deadline: 1 April 2017

Workshop 2: Integrating development and inheritance

mid-February 2018


This workshop will discuss:
(i) the historical origins of the separation of development and inheritance and their description in genetic terms, and how this shaped the development of research programmes within evolutionary biology,
(ii) the possible implications of alternative conceptualizations, and the re-integration of this relationship, that are emerging through recent advances in the biological sciences, and are emphasized by the EES, and
(iii) how experimental work and mathematical modelling best can proceed under constructive views of development and inheritance and the implication it has for how to assign fitness and establish adaptation.


Participants will contribute to a special edition of a relevant journal.


Location: SFI, Sante Fe, USA
Organizers: Kevin Laland & Tobias Uller

Workshop 3: Directional biases in evolution

mid-November 2018


The aim of this workshop is to reflect anew on the processes that give phenotypic evolution directionality. Traditionally, only natural selection was granted a creative role in evolution. However, changing concepts of development, and of the interaction between organism and environment, are increasingly leading researchers to consider a broader range of processes as potentially imposing directionality on evolution, including the evolution of adaptations.


Key foci for the workshop will be developmental bias, niche construction, and the role of plasticity in generating these biases. The workshop will be informed by key theoretical and experimental studies conducted within the wider research programme. Participants will contribute to an edited volume on this topic.


Location: SFI, Sante Fe, USA
Organizers: Tobias Uller & Kevin Laland

International conference: ‘Evolutionary Biology in the 21st Century: towards an Extended Synthesis’

dates to be announced


As the climax to the programme of research initiated by the grant, we will organize a major international conference, to be held in Cambridge, UK, which will feature a program of talks and poster sessions, spanning four days. The conference will be focused on new developments in the biological sciences and their implications for understanding the process of evolution. It will be open to all researchers who wish to present their own work, subject to their submitted abstracts for talks and posters being accepted by the organizing committee.


Location: Cambridge, UK
Organizers: Kevin Laland & Tobias Uller

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