ERC IDEM Dialectical Biologist Workshop

June 14-16, 2016

University of Bordeaux

Organized by: Lynn Chiu & Thomas Pradeu
University of Bordeaux/CNRS

Contact: Lynn Chiu


30 years after Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin’s The Dialectical Biologist, there is ever more a need to examine hidden dichotomies in current biology and reflect on the call to take seriously the dialectic inter-penetration and continuous co-construction of parts, wholes, and environment.

In celebration of this important publication, we revisit the big picture and lessons of The Dialectical Biologist with philosophers, biologists and physicians. Together, we will identify dogmatic dichotomies that persist across biological disciplines, explore conceptual frameworks in the spirit of dialectical biology, and critically examine plausible instances of “co-construction” in Eco-Devo and microbiota research.

In memory of Richard Levins: Dr. Levins had accepted our invitation to teleconference at the workshop. We also had plans to conduct a taped interview prior to the workshop at Harvard. As we reel from the shock of his sudden passing on the 19th of January, we mourn the lost opportunity to engage with a bright and fertile mind and the loss of a great man. We will carry on this workshop in his memory and to continue his legacy.     

Our Speakers

(alphabetical order)


  • André Ariew (University of Missouri)

  • Gillian Barker (University of Western Ontario)

  • Lynn Chiu (ERC IDEM, University of Bordeaux & CNRS)

  • Laurence Delhaes (Centre Hospitalier Universitaire of Bordeaux)

  • Gérard Eberl (Institut Pasteur)

  • Tamara Awerbuch Friedlander (Harvard School of Public Health)

  • Jean Gayon (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne/CNRS/ENS)

  • Scott F. Gilbert (Swarthmore College)

  • Philippe Huneman (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne/CNRS)

  • Maureen O’Malley (University of Bordeaux)

  • Thomas Pradeu (ERC IDEM, University of Bordeaux & CNRS)

  • Thierry Schaeverbeke (Centre Hospitalier Universitaire of Bordeaux)

  • Sonia E. Sultan (Wesleyan University)

  • Denis M. Walsh (University of Toronto)

  • Michael Weisberg (University of Pennsylvania)

  • Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther (University of California, Santa Cruz)


June 14    30 Years After The Dialectical Biologist

Venue: Pey Berland salle 1K

1:30-2:00       Registration

2:00-2:10       Opening Remarks

2:10-2:30       Michael Weisberg (University of Pennsylvania)

                       Richard Levins’ Philosophy of Science

2:30-3:30       Tamara Awerbuch Friedlander (Harvard School of Public Health)

                       Richard Levins’ Legacy: The Truth is the Whole

3:45-4:45     Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther (UC Santa Cruz)

                      The Dialectical Biologist Remembered, Rethought, Reactivated

4:45-5:45       Thomas Pradeu (Université de Bordeaux/CNRS)

                        The Dialectics of Host-Microbe Interactions

6:00-7:00       Short Remarks & Discussion

7:00-8:30       Cocktail

June 15  New Frontiers: Eco-Devo & Microbiota-Host Co-construction        
Venue: Pey Berland salle 1K 

8:45-9:00       Welcoming Coffee

9:00-10:00    Sonia Sultan (Wesleyan University)

                       Organism-Environment Co-construction: an Eco-Devo Case Study in Plants

10:00-11:00  Gillian Barker (University of Western Ontario)

                       From Co-opting to Co-controlling: Biological Leverage as a Bridge between Development and Ecology

11:15-12:15  Scott F. Gilbert (Swarthmore College)

                       Development and Symbiosis: Becoming with the Others

2:30-3:30     Gérard Eberl (Institut Pasteur)

                       Microbiota, Immunity, and Self

3:45-4:45     Maureen O’Malley (Université de Bordeaux/CNRS)

                      Causal Relationships in Microbe-Host Systems

4:45-5:45     Laurence Delhaes & Thierry Schaeverbeke (Centre Hopitalier Universitaire of Bordeaux)

                      The Emerging Concept of the Lung Mycobiota: an Example of Ecological Modeling

5:45-6:45     Lynn Chiu (Université de Bordeaux/CNRS)

                      Constructing and Being Constructed by Our Internalized Ecosystem

June 16      Old Lessons, New Dialectics (closed door) 

Due to venue availability restrictions, the last day is not open to the public

10:15-11:15  Denis M. Walsh (University of Toronto)

                       Objectcy and Agency: the Dialectics of Adaptive Evolution

11:15-12:15  André Ariew (University of Missouri)

                       Adaptationism Redux? Richard Lewontin’s Constructivist Challenge

12:15-1:15    Philippe Huneman (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne/CNRS)

                       Externalism, Internalism and Extended Systems: Evolution, Development, Mind

2:30-4:00      General Discussions