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                                            philosophy of biology
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contact: linquist@uoguelph.ca










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Philosophy of Genomics
   
cartoon genomic function
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 This project critically examines the ways that functions are assigned to genetic elements. I am particularly interested in non-coding or "Junk" DNA and the claim that it has some function which benefits the organism. A related interest concerns transposable elements and the suggestion that their abundance and distribution are best understood by viewing the genome as a mini-ecosystem. 


Cultural Evolution
 
Maasai-warriors-culture-of-honor
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Meme theory, evolutionary psychology, and dual inheritance theory are three rival approaches to the study of cultural evolution. I argue that debates among these alternatives cannot be resolved using a combination of models and anecdotes. In addition, we must develop these theories in ways that allow for cross-cultural comparison. To this end, I focus on the Culture of Honour hypothesis which I attempt to test using ethnographic data from the Human Relations Area File, among other sources.   


Philosophy of Ecology
marmot-philosophy of ecology
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I am interested in a variety of theoretical issues in ecology, especially those with direct relevance to public policy. I have published articles on  ecological generalization (or "laws"), neutral theory, and genome-level ecology. Recently, I co-authored a book on the value of biodiversity.  


Innateness & Human Nature
 
lorenz
                                  innate behavior
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Everyone agrees that the nature/nurture dichotomy is a false one. Yet, there is a stubborn tendency both in everyday speech and in scientific discourse to retain these categories. For example, behaviours are often categorized as either innate or learned, or as either biological or cultural. This project investigates how and why people employ these categories, and proposes strategies for transcending them.


Octopus Cognition
octopus-cognition-link
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I am involved in an ongoing field research project on Octopus tetricus, based in Australia. Our discovery of social behaviour in this species has inspired various exaggerated media reports, including claims that octopuses "engineer cities."  Although these animals are extremely interesting and probably fairly intelligent, most reports are grossly exaggerated.