Project title: Testing “It’s the song, not the singer(s)”: microbiomes to Gaia
Project description: “It’s the song, not the singer” (ITSNTS) theory was developed to legitimize and supplant claims that we and our microbiomes (“holobionts”) – or complex communities more generally (maximally, the biosphere) – are units of selection (“Darwinian individuals”). ITSNTS holds that it is the processes implemented, not the implementing taxa (individually or collectively), that are the relevant units, evolving through differential persistence and recruitment of implementing taxa, not differential reproduction. ITSNTS engages and challenges traditional philosophical concerns about individuality, function, causation, emergence and hierarchy, is increasingly relevant biomedically (as in the new discipline of “microbiomics”), and should provide a much-needed and novel theoretical underpinning for evolutionary biology and ecology.
However, ITSNTS theory needs further theoretical development (as philosophy), further grounding in evidence from genomic and metagenomic databases, and establishment of relevant parameters through carefully constructed computer models. Along with these empirical and computational modelling challenges, many theoretical, ontological and, indeed, political implications are yet to be worked out. We believe the radical ontology of ITSNTS promises to have significant ramifications for how we think about various biological systems, implications that reach beyond the foundational applications in evolutionary theory, medicine, or the environmental sciences to the way we think about our relationships with other organisms and the place of humans in nature.
PIs on this project are Ford Doolittle in Dalhousie’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Letitia Meynell in Dalhousie’s Department of Philosophy and Joe Bielawski in Dalhousie’s Departments of Biology and Mathematics and Statistics is a co-applicant. The postdoctoral fellow will be supervised by Dr. Meynell and Dr. Doolittle.
Duties: The fellow will be expected to work closely with the rest of the research team developing their own research projects, working on collaborative projects, and providing other team members with feedback on their projects. They will have opportunities to present their research to scientific, philosophical, and interdisciplinary audiences at Dalhousie as well as support for presenting at national and international venues. They will be expected to organize an interdisciplinary evolution studies reading group. Although there will be no requirement to teach, we anticipate that there will be opportunities to teach. Please note that in addition to the salary listed below, there are also some funds for accessibility supports and conference travel.
Cross-appointed in Dalhousie’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Department of Philosophy, the successful candidate will conduct research on either philosophy of microbiology and evolutionary biology or the epistemology of models and computer simulations as part of the project. Ideal candidates should have, in addition to background in one or the other of the above two research areas, some familiarity with and interest in feminist epistemologies of science or Indigenous or other ‘non-Western’ ontologies. A recent PhD in Philosophy, the History and Philosophy of Science or Science and Technology Studies is required. While the fellow will be expected to move to Nova Scotia there is the possibility that they will need to begin the fellowship at a distance, should the current global public health crisis make moving to Canada effectively impossible by the start date. Canadians and non-Canadians will be considered. Although consideration of candidates will begin on May 22, 2020, the position will remain open until filled.
Dalhousie University is committed to fostering a collegial culture grounded in diversity and inclusiveness. The university encourages applications from Indigenous persons, persons with a disability, racially visible persons, women, persons of a minority sexual orientation and/or gender identity, and all candidates who would contribute to the diversity of our community. For more information, please visit www.dal.ca/hiringfordiversity.
Queries can be sent to either Ford Doolittle (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Letitia Meynell (Letitia.Meynell@dal.ca). Please apply directly to the PeopleAdmin posting http://dal.peopleadmin.ca/postings/3490