Publications & Projects

My area of expertise is understanding and discerning the role of values in science and its history. Taking a historically inclined approach to my work in the ethics and epistemology of science, my philosophical expertise makes contributions to matters of values in evolutionary biology, paleontology, and natural history. Links to articles are provided where available.

George G. Simpson and Stephen J. Gould on Values: Shifting Normative Frameworks in Historical Context (2023)


George G. Simpson (1902–1984) and Stephen J. Gould (1941–2002) were both engaged with the normative – i.e., social, cultural, political, and even ethical – consequences of their evolutionary theorizing. However, there is a normative point of departure between Simpson and Gould’s work in that regard that has received little attention. Yet, their motivations converge into a larger program of resistance and social protection from misconstrued and illegitimate overreaches of the biological sciences leading up to and after the peak of the modern synthesis.

Journal of the Philosophy of History 17: 104-129. Open Access Article Link.

Historical Contingency: A Special Issue on Epistemic & Non-Epistemic Values in Historical Sciences (2023)


Historical contingency has been a central theme of much recent work in the philosophy of historical science. This includes a rich and interdisciplinary literature on the role and nature of contingency in sciences like evolutionary biology, paleontology, geology, ecology, astrobiology, and more. In recent years, however, philosophers of science have given more and more attention to questions about how non-epistemic (ethical, social, political, aesthetic) values figure in the practice of science. Philosophers of historical science are just beginning to engage in this larger discussion of values in science. This special issue features new and emerging work that draws connections between the literature on historicity and historical contingency and recent work on values in science.

Journal of the Philosophy of History 17: 1-8. Open Access Article Link.

With Derek Turner

Biological Individuality: An Element with Cambridge University Press (2023)


This Element develops a view about biological individuality's value in two ways: while biological individuality matters for its theoretical and methodological roles in the production of scientific knowledge, its historical use in promoting the politics of social ideologies concerning progress and perfection of humanity's evolutionary future must not be ignored. Recent trends in biological individuality are analyzed and set against the history of evolutionary thought drawing from the early twentieth century. This title is available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.

Biological Individuality. Cambridge Elements Series in Philosophy of Biology, Grant Ramsey and Michael Ruse (eds). Cambridge University Press. 

Contingency's Causality & Structural Diversity (2019)


What is the relationship between evolutionary contingency and diversity? The evolutionary contingency thesis emphasizes dependency relations and chance as the hallmarks of evolution. While contingency can be destructive of, for example, the fragile and complex dynamics in an ecosystem, I will mainly focus on the productive or causal aspect of contingency for a particular sort of diversity. There are many sorts of diversities: Gould is most famous for his diversity-to-decimation model, which includes disparate body plans distinguishing different phyla. However, structural diversity construed more broadly spans scales, such as organization in and among cells, structural arrangements and biomechanics on various scales, and even the profile of ancestor-descendent relationships or community structure of interactions within ecosystems. By focusing on stochastic processes in contingent evolution, I argue that contingency causes structural diversity. Specifically, I focus on the plurality of structural types of cells, genetic codes, and phyla diversity as case studies.

Biology and Philosophy, 34: 1-26. Article Link. Preprint Link

Walking The Line: A Tempered View of Contingency & Convergence in Life's History (2017)


On first encountering the science and philosophy of evolutionary contingency, you’d be forgiven for being intimidated by the variety of themes. From panselectionism, to (in)determinism, to predictability, repeatability, and inevitability in evolution, and whether humans are special and understanding our place in the cosmos; the contingency literature really covers it all. Jonathan Losos’s treatment of the longstanding debate over contingency in life’s history not only captures its complexity with strength, but also provides some methodological scaffolding to repair and reinforce its fractured state across biology and philosophy.

An Essay Review of Jonathan Losos: Improbable Destinies: Fate, Chance, and the Future of Evolution (2017). Acta Biotheoretica, 67(3): 253-264. Article Link.

Contingency & Individuality: A Plurality of Evolutionary Individuality Types (2017)


Recently, philosophers have sought to determine the nature of individuals relevant to evolution by natural selection or evolutionary individuals. The Evolutionary Contingency Thesis is a claim about evolution that emphasizes the role of contingency or dependency relations and chance-based factors in how evolution unfolds. In this article, I argue that if we take evolutionary contingency seriously, then we should be pluralists about the types of individuals in selection.

Philosophy of Science, 84(5): 1104-1116. Article Link.

Gouldian Arguments & The Sources of Contingency (2017)


‘Gouldian arguments’ appeal to the contingency of a scientific domain to establish that domain’s autonomy from some body of theory. For instance, pointing to evolutionary contingency, Stephen Jay Gould suggested that natural selection alone is insufficient to explain life on the macroevolutionary scale. In analysing contingency, philosophers have provided source-independent accounts, understanding how events and processes structure history without attending to the nature of those events and processes. But Gouldian Arguments require source-dependent notions of contingency. An account of contingency is source-dependent when it is indexed to (1) some pattern (i.e., microevolution or macroevolution) and (2) some process (i.e., Natural Selection, species sorting, etc.). Positions like Gould’s do not turn on the mere fact of life’s contingency—that life’s shape could have been different due to its sensitivity to initial conditions, path-dependence or stochasticity. Rather, Gouldian arguments require that the contingency is due to particular kinds of processes: in this case, those which microevolutionary theory cannot account for. This source-dependent perspective clarifies both debates about the nature and importance of contingency, and empirical routes for testing Gould’s thesis.

Biology and Philosophy, 32 (2): 243-261. Article Link.

With Adrian Currie

Book In Progress

Values, Politics, & Society: Ideological Foundations of Biology's Modern Synthesis


A longstanding problem concerning the relationship between science and society is the claim that science is value neutral and not “infected” with politics. Gould (1996, 36) argued that the veil of dispassionate objectivity is one of the worst lies ever told about how scientific research is conducted. 

The thesis of this proposed book project is that science cannot be understood apart from its rhetorical usages. Science’s social orders and their socio-political contexts have been explored by sociologists (e.g., Duster 2003), historians (e.g., Paul 1984, 1995, 2018, Radick 2023, Campos 2021, Allen 1975a, b, 1997, 2016), and Science and Technology Studies scholars (e.g., Cain 2009, 2013, 2018). Biologists have also considered broader social impacts of work across the life sciences (e.g., Erwin 2016, Losos 2017, de Queiroz 2014, Blount et al 2018).  However, philosophers too recognize the role of values and society in the inner workings of science (Longino 1983, 1990, 2002, 2013; Okruhlik 1994, Douglas 2000, 2007, Elliott and Steel 2019, Brown 2020). Yet, the role of values and politics shaping the ideological foundations of biology’s Modern Synthesis—an episode in the history of biology coordinating sciences relevant to evolution—remains critically underexplored by philosophers. 

In particular, much of the rhetoric concerning the meaning of empirical work leading up to, during, and just after the Modern Synthesis became part of the established worldview of that era bringing scientific thought to bear on policy issues concerning the management of humanity’s evolutionary future. 

A critical point underlying this project is that debates over alternative conceptions of nature are not merely epistemic, but also passion-laden; that these passions are socially organized and thus form ‘sentimental orders’. The developing monograph will reveal consequences of entwined values and technical research expressed in evolutionary biology’s foundational texts, history, and educational power. 

This book will synthesize five years of archival work. Brief chapter synopses with case studies are available upon request.

Dissertation & Brief Book Reviews

2017. Individuality, the Major Transitions, & the Evolutionary Contingency Thesis (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Dissertation Link.


2021. Review of A Meaning to Life by Michael Ruse (2019). For The Quarterly Review of Biology, 96: 34-35. Review Link.

2020. Old Haunts and New Insights. Review of Otavio Bueno, Ruey-Lin Chen, and Melinda Bonnie Fagan (eds.) Individuation, Process, and Scientific Practice (2018). For History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, 42: 4. Review Link.

2020. Review of Kostas Kampourakis Turning Points: How Critical Events Have Driven Human Evolution, Life, and Development (2018). For The Quarterly Review of Biology, 95(1): 78-79. Review Link. 


2016. Review of Maureen O’Malley’s Philosophy of Microbiology (2014).  In The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 67(3): 931-935. Review Link.


2015. Review of Thomas Pradeu’s The Limits of the Self:  Immunology and Biological Identity (2012).  In Philosophy in Review 35 (3): 171-173. Review Link.

Current Research & Editorial Activity


As of fall 2023, I'm delighted to join the editorial team managing Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology

That's Life

The 2023 ASU-MBL History of Biology Seminar titled Replaying Life's Tape: Historical Contingency in the Life Sciences

Celebrating the 35th anniversary of the seminar the 2024 topic is That's Life: How Accidents Can be Consequential 

co-organized with John Beatty

Values & Historical Science

Special Issue on epistemic and non-epistemic values in the historical sciences now available in the Journal of the Philosophy of History 

co-edited with Derek Turner