Size Doesn’t Matter: Towards a More Inclusive Philosophy of Biology<sup>1</sup>

Maureen A. O'Malley

in Processes of Life

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199691982
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738111 | DOI:
Size Doesn’t Matter: Towards a More Inclusive Philosophy of Biology1

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This chapter provides a manifesto for the importance of taking proper account of microbes, from many perspectives the dominant form of life certainly in the past and arguably even today, in the philosophy of biology. It is argued that this will transform ideas on ontology, evolution, taxonomy, and biodiversity. A number of recent developments in microbiology—including biofilm formation, chemotaxis, quorum sensing, and gene transfer—highlight microbial capacities for cooperation and communication and break down conventional thinking that microbes are solely or primarily single-celled organisms. These insights also bring new perspectives to the levels of selection debate, as well as to discussions of the evolution and nature of multicellularity, and to neo-Darwinian understandings of evolutionary mechanisms.

Keywords: microbe; biofilm; lateral gene transfer; multicellularity

Chapter.  11972 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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