Niche Construction: Biosemiotics and Recursivity in Evolution
By Jeffrey Peterson
The Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES) has well-known antecedents in evolutionary biology. For instance, in the mid-20th Century Conrad Waddington anticipated the salience of developmental bias and epigenetic inheritance as evolutionary processes in the EES. Aspects of niche construction theory, another core process within the EES, was articulated decades ago by Richard Lewontin. However, the theoretical contributions of anthropologists regarding niche construction are lesser known. Gregory Bateson and Kinji Imanishi make particularly salient corrections to neo-Darwinian natural selection that are now foundational within the EES, such as the mutual mutability of organism-environment relations and the concomitant implications for selection within such dynamic ecological systems. Here, I further explore the potential contribution of Philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce’s semiotic theory toward elucidating the mechanisms of information flow in John Odling-Smee and colleagues’ formalized conception of niche construction. Drawing on the work of these theorists, I connect them with the underlying process of reciprocal causation in niche construction, which envisions co-responding proximate and ultimate evolutionary patterns. I argue that recognizing these integrated processes as biosemiotically recursive patterns will strengthen the conceptual and explanatory value of niche construction.
Monday, March 30 2020, at 2:30PM; UCHI Conference Room, Babbidge Library, Fourth Floor.
Co-Sponsored by UConn Anthropology Department; Philosophy Department; Expression, Communication, and the Origins of Meaning (ECOM) Research Group; and James Barnett Endowment for Humanistic Anthropology.
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Notre Dame
Dr. Jeffrey Peterson is a postdoctoral fellow in the Anthropology Department at the University of Notre Dame. His research focuses on the wide-ranging manifestations of long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis) social behavior in anthropogenic landscapes. He is interested in how social interactions facilitate and maintain relationships among the macaques, as well as between macaques and humans. His research has been supported by the National Geographic Society and the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program.
Epistemic Gatekeeping, Pride or Prejudice?
Joseph Ulatowski, Senior Lecturer of Philosophy, The University of Waikato – New Zealand
October 23, 2019 – 4 to 5PM (UCHI Conference Room: Babbidge Library, 4th Floor South)
The continuous growth of intellectual ecosystems leads to an environment populated by mutually uncomprehending hyperspecialised groups. That there are such groups can be taken, quite rightly, to reflect the way that human knowledge has expanded and deepened to such an extent that one person can only have a detailed grasp of a very narrow field. People no longer specialise in medicine and law but hyperspecialise in endocrinology and patent law. They occupy a niche that has its own epistemic standards and only those hyperspecialists make appropriate use of its standards. Enter gatekeepers whose sole responsibility it is to assist new entrants to navigate these standards, so that novices not be left stranded upon remote cognitive islands. Whilst they may be highly skilled practitioners, epistemic gatekeepers are not free from acting upon their own cognitive biases and prejudices. In this excerpt from my project, Why Facts Matter, I argue that facts should serve against not only stranding novices on cognitive islands but also privileging biased gatekeepers.
“Credulity and Circumspection: Epistemological Character and the Ethics of Belief “.
Professor Susan Haack, Distinguished Professor in the Humanities, Cooper Senior Scholar in Arts and Sciences, Professor of Philosophy, and Professor of Law at the University of Miami
Sponsored by The Humanities Institute’s Public Discourse Project and the Department of Philosophy