Çağlar Karaca at the Biological Interest Group – Monday, 23rd October, 2-3pm, Byrne House

The second meeting of BIG saw some fruitful discussion of a draft chapter, titled ‘order, disorder, and self-organisation’, from Çağlar Karaca’s doctoral work. The author has sought to assess the concept of self-organisation, and it was suggested that to adequately treat issues of self-organisation for theoretical biology, one should encourage an interdisciplinary approach; specifically, the fields of thermodynamics, nonlinear dynamics, and chemistry were identified as fertile for promoting theoretical work for our concept of self-organisation in nature. In general, the discussion moved towards identifying shared concepts in these fields, such as ‘regulation’ and ‘homeostasis’; but concerns were raised as to their differing uses, meanings, and contexts. Interesting distinctions and comparisons were made between the writings of Kaufmann (1993, 1996, 2000), Schrödinger ([1967] 2013) and Kant ([1790] 1978). Finally, the case of microtubule self-organisation was briefly explored (see Glade, Beaugnon & Tabony, 2006).

If you’d be interested in joining the group and discussing, with Çağlar, his research, please contact us here.

At our next meeting (13th November), we have Dr. Katharine Tyler presenting a paper.


Glade, N., E. Beaugnon, & J. Tabony, ‘Ground-based methods reproduce space-flight experiments and show that weak vibrations trigger microtubule self-organisation’, Biophysical Chemistry, 121:1 (2006) 1-6

Kant, I., Critique of the Power of Judgement [1790], trans. by J.C. Meredith, (Clarendon Press, 1978)

Kauffman, S., The Origins of Order (Oxford University Press, 1993)

Kauffman, S., At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organisation and Complexity, (Oxford University Press, 1996)

Kauffman, S., Investigations, (Oxford University Press, 2000)

Schrödinger, E., What is Life? The Physical Aspect of the Living Cell [1967], (Cambridge University Press, 2013)



John Dupré at the Biological Interest Group – Monday, 9th October, 2-3pm, Byrne House

— Dear all,

It is my pleasure to have taken over from Thomas Bonnin as coordinator of the Biological Interest Group. I look forward to the forthcoming year of discussions. If you should need to get in contact with me, my email address is bs406@exeter.ac.uk.

Benjamin Smart


The first meeting of the new academic year has commenced (9th October), and saw the discussion of two articles co-authored by Professor John Dupré (University of Exeter): ‘Sex-Linked Behavior: Evolution, Stability, and Variability’ (Fine, Dupré & Joel, 2017) and its complement, ‘The Biosocial Genome’ (Müller et al., 2017).

This discussion saw the fruitful exchange of many ideas with John and the group. One point, for example, was the possibility that environmental factors are a source of stable inheritance of sex-linked behavioural traits. Such a possibility may indeed help explain cases where sex-linked traits fail to develop as environmental conditions change. We might think to Rhesus monkeys and how adequate care of their firstborn depends upon early social experiences of the mother (Fine, Dupré & Joel, 2017, p. 670; Seay et al., 1964). This is contrary to the notion of maternal instincts. Similarly, we might also think to the case of male Charles River strain rats. Research has shown that, when placed in close proximity to pups, male rats showed ‘maternal’ behaviour within one week (Fine, Dupré & Joel, 2017, p. 670; Rosenblatt, 1967). Moreover, such a possibility is significant because it extends the debate on the scope of the determinacy of the genome. Thus Fine, Dupré & Joel (2017) challenge the often-assumed idea that genetic inheritance is the only process that provides both phenotypic variation and the reliable transfer of traits.

If you’d be interested in joining the group and discussing John’s paper, please contact us here

Next week (23rd October), we have Çağlar Karaca presenting a paper.


Fine, C., J. Dupré & D. Joel, ‘Sex-Linked Behavior: Evolution, Stability, and Variability’, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 21:9 (2017) 666-673.

Müller, R., C. Hanson, M. Hanson, M. Penkler, G. Samaras, L. Chiapperino, J. Dupré, M. Kenney, C. Kuzawa, J. Latimer, S. Lloyd, A. Lunkes, M. Macdonald, M. Meloni, B. Nerlich, F. Panese, M. Pickersgill, S. Richardson, J. Rüegg, S. Schmitz, A. Stelmach, & P.-I. Villa, ‘The Biosocial Genome? Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Environmental Epigenetics, Health and Society’, EMBO Reports, 18:10 (2017) e201744953. DOI 10.15252/embr.201744953

Rosenblatt, J.S. ‘Nonhormonal basis of maternal behavior in the rat’, Science, 156 (1967) 1512-1513

Seay, B., et al., ‘Maternal behavior of socially deprived rhesus monkeys’, The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 69:4 (1964) 345-354