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“For a long time, evolution has been defined based upon natural selection…one of the things that I have been thinking about is a new way of defining evolution that is neutral enough to include these different kinds of evolutionary mechanisms…I define evolution as the phenomenon whereby units evolve at levels of an ontological hierarchy by mechanisms and processes…beyond genes, beyond organisms, there can be different units of evolution; it can be a gene, and organism, an organelle, a bacterium…there can be many units,” says Nathalie Gontier, Director of the Applied Evolutionary Epistemology Lab and faculty member in the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Lisbon, Portugal.

She joins the podcast today to discuss how the theory and understanding of evolution have changed over time, emphasizing a theory that is becoming increasingly recognized in the world of evolutionary epistemology: reticulate evolution, which occurs by symbiogenesis. She also discusses why the tree as a model or metaphor for evolution is based on an incomplete understanding of evolutionary mechanisms, how culture is a form of evolution, what can be learned from the idea of proto-languages, external versus internal environments where evolutionary processes occur, and so much more.

Press play to hear the full conversation, and find more information on Gontier’s work at

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