Giorgio Airoldi (UNED)’s talk, «Beyond Fitness: Robustness as measure of non-selective evolutionary phenomena «

Date: 16/06/2020, at 11:30

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The last decades have seen the flourishing of accounts of evolutionary forces other than selection, many of which have been collected under the name of Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (ESS) (Laland et al. 2015). The range of phenomena targeted by these accounts spans from genetic mechanisms (e.g. Cherniak & Rodriguez-Esteban 2013, Kimura 1983, Wagner 2015) to developmental (e.g. Maynard Smith  et al. 1985), systemic (e.g. Kauffman 2000) and neo-Lamarckian (e.g. Koonin & Wolf 2009).

Although almost none of them denies the importance and even preponderance of selection in the history of life, and they rather aim at integrating non-selective phenomena into neo-Darwinism (a view known as ‘pluralism’), they are highly criticized by main-stream biology, that either limits or completely denies their evolutionary importance, often underling that their contribution to fitness is immaterial.

In this talk, I claim that fitness, being an intrinsically selective measure, should not be used to judge non-selective phenomena. I show how, by doing so, the theory of selection falls into the well-known pitfall of becoming a truism. To avoid the pitfall, I propose to recur to robustness as a selective-indifferent variable able to account for the contribution to evolution of non-selective forces. After defining robustness, I analyse some of the mechanisms that increase the robustness of a system and I suggest how non-selective phenomena can contribute to the appearance of such mechanisms in organisms. Finally, I propose a classification of evolutionary phenomena in terms of changes of form and function, and I show how fitness and robustness might jointly explain them in a unified, pluralistic account of evolution.


Cherniak, C.; Rodriguez-Esteban, R. (2013). Body maps on the human genome. Mol. Cytogenet. 6 (1): 61Kauffman, S., (2000). Investigations. Oxford University Press.

Kimura, M. (1983). The neutral theory of molecular evolution. Cambridge University Press

Koonin, E. V., Wolf, Y. I (2009). Is evolution Darwinian or/and Lamarckian? Biology Direct, 4:42

Laland K.N., Uller T., Feldman M.W., Sterelny K., Müller G.B., Moczek A., Jablonka E., Odling-Smee J. (2015). The extended evolutionary synthesis: its structure, assumptions and predictions. Proc. R. Soc. B 282: 20151019

Maynard Smith, J., Burian, R., Kauffman, S., Alberch, P., Campbell, J., Goodwin, B., Lande, R., Raup, D., Wolpert, L. (1985). Developmental Constraints and Evolution: A Perspective from the Mountain Lake Conference on Development and Evolution. The Quarterly Review of Biology, (60)  3: 265-287

Wagner, A., (2011), The Origins of Evolutionary Innovations, Oxford University Press

Juan M. Loaiza’s talk, «Sandboxing: A Specification Hierarchy of Contexts of Constraint Interdependence»

Date: 09/06/2020, at 11:30

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In this presentation I propose to bring interest to seemingly peripheral aspects of the theory of organisational closure based on constraint dependencies (Moreno & Mossio, 2015; Montévil & Mossio, 2015). In particular, I show how the theory can generate an alternative mapping of levels or hierarchies of organisation.The question I address is how contexts come about. I use Salthe’s distinction of compositional and specification hierarchies and show how the latter combined with some of the consequences of the constraint-based theory yields an interesting alternative. Compositional (or scalar) hierarchies are almost the default assumption across various disciplines (e.g. by adding parts we can go progressively from subatomic particles to populations, etc.). The alternative consists of an open-ended specification hierarchy of contexts which I call tentatively the “sandboxes” hierarchy (in reference to the metaphor of sandboxing in software development). By focusing on mapping contexts (the periphery), as a complement to the established theory of organisational closure (the centre), I point to possible integrative links across nomothetic and idiographic perspectives.   

Grupo de lectura Evolución y Cognición


  1. Comprender las diferentes teorías sobre la evolución de la cognición humana.
  2. Adquirir conocimientos básicos de biología evolutiva y fisiología del sistema nervioso.
  3. Discutir la relevancia de la interacción con el entorno en la evolución del sistema nervioso

2. Formato

Once seminarios de lectura de 1:30h con diferentes autores y temas en relación a la evolución del sistema nervioso y la cognición humana. En cada sesión, un participante introducirá el tema (20 minutos) y facilitará la discusión. Tras cada sesión, se elaborará un breve resumen para la elaboración del informe final. Los idiomas de las sesiones y lecturas serán en Español e Inglés.

3. Calendario, temas y lecturas

El seminario tendrá lugar de Enero a Mayo de 2019, los Jueves alternos de 15:00 a 16:30 en el Seminario 14 del Centro Carlos Santamaría. Las sesiones están abiertas a participación presencial y online.

Sesión Fecha Tema Bibliografía
1. 10 Enero Intro a la teoría evolutiva Moreno, A., & Lasa, A. (2003). From basic adaptivity to early mind. Evolution and Cognition, 9(1).

Rosslenbroich, B. (2014). On the origin of autonomy: a new look at the major transitions in evolution (Vol. 5). Springer Science & Business Media. Capítulos 8, 10.1 y 10.2

2. 24 Enero Evolución del sistema nervioso I. Sistemas Dinámicos Barandiaran, X., & Moreno, A. (2006). On what makes certain dynamical systems cognitive: A minimally cognitive organization program. Adaptive Behavior, 14(2), 171-185..
3. 7 Febrero Evolución del sistema nervioso II. Cognición en plantas y animales Calvo Garzón, P., & Keijzer, F. (2011). Plants: Adaptive behavior, root-brains, and minimal cognition. Adaptive Behavior, 19(3), 155-171.

Keijzer, F. (2015). Moving and sensing without input and output: Early nervous systems and the origins of the animal sensorimotor organization. Biology & Philosophy, 30, 311–331

4. 21 Febrero Evolución y Agencia Barandiarán, X. (2008). Mental Life. A naturalized approach to the autonomy of cognitive agents. [Thesis Capítulos 5 y 6]
5. 7 Marzo Las 4 dimensiones de la evolución Jablonka, E., & Lamb, M. J. (2007). Précis of evolution in four dimensions. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 30(4), 353-365.
6. 21 Marzo Evolución de funciones cognitivas: memoria de trabajo y lóbulo frontal Damasio, El error de Descartes. capítulos 2,3 y 4.

Frederick L. Coolidge, Thomas Wynn. 2009.The Rise of Homo Sapiens, The Evolution of Modern Thinking [capítulo 3]

7. 4 Abril Evolución y reproducción Gruss, L. T., & Schmitt, D. (2015). The evolution of the human pelvis: changing adaptations to bipedalism, obstetrics and thermoregulation. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B, 370(1663), 20140063.
8. 18 Abril Evolución Cultural I Portin, P. (2015). A comparison of biological and cultural evolution. Journal of genetics, 94(1), 155-168.

Lewens, T. (2015). Cultural evolution: conceptual challenges. OUP Oxford (capítulo 1)

9. 2 Mayo Evolución cultural II Dunbar, R. I. (2009). The social brain hypothesis and its implications for social evolution. Annals of human biology, 36(5), 562-572.

Laland, K., Matthews, B., & Feldman, M. W. (2016). An introduction to niche construction theory. Evolutionary ecology, 30(2), 191-202.

10. 16 Mayo Evolución y Cognición 4E Barrett, L. The evolution of cognition: a 4E perspective. The Oxford Handbook of 4e Cognition. New York: Oxford UP.

Malafouris, L. Bringing things to mind. In The Oxford Handbook of 4E Cognition.

11. 30 Mayo Recapitulación y evaluación
Congreso 10-14 Julio 4E Cognition Theories

4. Coordinación e información 

Para participar en el grupo de lectura o para más información, por favor contactad con los coordinadores:

Enara Garcia (

Guglielmo Militello (

Alejandra Martínez Quintero (

Graduate Workshop on Philosophy of Science / Seminario de Investigación en Filosofía de la Ciencia

Date and time: March 9, Friday, 9:00 – 13:30

Location: ”Sala de Juntas” (Facultad de Educación, Filosofía y Antropología, EHU/UPV)

Opening: Alba Amilburu (EHU-UPV, IAS-Research) & Cristian Saborido (UNED)

Speakers: Alejandra Martínez Quintero (EHU-UPV), Giorgio Airoldi (UNED), Guglielmo Militello (EHU-UPV), Emilio Cáceres Vázquez (UNED)

Program: Graduate Workshop on Philosophy of Science1