[S8] Major transitions in evolution

Complex life has evolved through a series of evolutionary transitions in individuality. During these transitions, existing individuals merged to become parts of a new higher-level individual, which consists of specialised subunits that divide labour. Recent years have seen major advances in the field that were enabled by experiments examining the origin of chemical replicators capable of Darwinian evolution, the evolution of simple multicellular organisms from single-celled ancestors in test tubes, solitary organisms attaining a group-living lifestyle, the origin and evolution of digital organisms in silico, and work examining how symbioses can lead to the origin of new organisms. Moreover, some of the exciting discoveries made in this field sparked intensive debate among philosophers on how organisms should be defined. Drawing on this diverse work, our symposium will highlight recent developments in this rapidly progressing area. By bringing together empirical, theoretical, and philosophical contributions, this symposium will not only facilitate discussions among scientists that otherwise would not meet, but will also help identify priorities for future research. Besides our two invited speakers, Ellen Clarke (Oxford) will discuss the topic from the perspective of a philosopher.
Organizers: Abel Bernadou, Christian Kost, Boris Kramer, Karen Meusemann, William Ratcliff
Invited speakers: Richard Michod, Silvia de Monte