Ontological and epistemological implications of symbiosis and symbiogenesis.

Nathalie Gontier

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)

Abstract

The endosymbiotic theory of evolution has major ontological and epistemological consequences.
Ontologically, symbiosis goes right to the heart of different species concepts and organismal definitions. That is, since all organisms are understood as primarily chimeras, it raises the question of how to properly define a biological individual. At the species level, the endosymbiotic species concept, developed by Margulis and Sagan (2002) also has ontological consequences for how to define a species. Evidently this ontological discussion has consequences for what can be defined as a unit or level of symbiotic evolution. Hence, the classic units and levels of selection debate can be expanded to include symbiosis and this in turn has major epistemological consequences.
Epistemologically, the following questions are in need of careful philosophical investigations.
(1) The study of symbiosis and symbiogenesis demonstrates that an organism is made up of phylogenetically acquired gene sets (e.g. mitochondrial DNA that evolved out of symbiogenetically acquired parracocci) and/or ontogenetically acquired gene sets (e.g. parasites or viruses). Therefore a pertinent question is whether or not a distinction can be made between primary and secondary partnerships. Or can these relationships be structured hierarchically?
(2) Another question relates to the number of symbionts and the pace of their evolution. Are different (endo)symbiotic partners independent units or levels of evolution or is the organism as a whole the sole unit of evolution? If there are different units and levels distinguishable within symbiotic evolution, do these different units evolve at different rates?
(3) And need all units that make up a symbiotic organism be subjected to a form of symbiotic evolution or is there still room left for other evolutionary mechanisms? That is, does a symbiotic explanation of evolutionary events automatically exclude other evolutionary mechanisms?
(4) A last question that will be addressed is whether symbiosis and symbiogenesis is only applicable to events that take place in the microcosm.
Previous work of mine has shown that symbiosis and symbiogenesis can also be extended to extra-biological fields such as anthropology and evolutionary linguistics, where it can play a universal role analogical to universal Darwinism (Dawkins) and universal selectionism (Cziko).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTheme session: The Impact of Symbiosis and Symbiogenesis on the Study of Evolution and Its Historical and Philosophical Implications I and II (organized by Nathalie Gontier and Francisco Carrapiço).
PublisherISHPSSB, Exeter, UK.
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2007
EventUnknown -
Duration: 27 Jul 2007 → …

Publication series

NameTheme session: The Impact of Symbiosis and Symbiogenesis on the Study of Evolution and Its Historical and Philosophical Implications I and II (organized by Nathalie Gontier and Francisco Carrapiço).

Conference

ConferenceUnknown
Period27/07/07 → …

Keywords

  • symbiogenesis
  • evolutionary epistemology
  • history of science

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