Liu, Katherine

PhD. Student

Ecology, Evolution and Behavior

B.S., Biology and Philosophy, University of California - Davis

M.S., Philosophy, Arizona State University

My project provides a novel solution to this debate by combining experimental evolution with philosophy to articulate a new conceptual model for investigating and explaining the evolution of complexity. Complexity, especially multicellular complexity, is ubiquitous in the living world but extremely difficult to study. Recent empirical work suggests that changes in the relationships between parts and wholes play an important role in evolutionary dynamics that yield increased complexity. In light of this work and the debate about the explanatory adequacy of evolutionary theory, I will develop a conceptual model for the investigation of the evolution of complexity based in the phenomenon of modularity, which is central to the relationship between parts and wholes. A key component of this model is a justification for using microbial experimental evolution as a methodology. This provides a solution to a number of difficulties highlighted in the debate about the necessity of an extended synthesis by showing connections between the empirical data and methodologies of evolutionary and developmental biology in an integrated conceptual model.    

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