Brett Calcott, Post Doctoral Fellow
I’m a philosopher of science with a background in software engineering. My research focuses on explaining the evolution of complexity. This area is filled with many interesting but often poorly defined and contested concepts—novelty, major transition, evolvability, modularity—and conflicting ideas about how these factors explain complexity. I’m exploring these concepts using evolutionary simulations. I’ve begun with a simple model of gene regulation capable of evolving plastic behaviour, and I’m currently using this to investigate a novel way of thinking about genetic information and evolvability. I am embedding this gene regulatory network in a simple model of multicellular physical development, to render it capable of evolving some basic functional forms. I can then pose questions about what factors explain change in this simplified system, with the ability to measure and manipulate all genetic and physical details. This will provide a framework to apply recent philosophical work on explanation to some recurrent debates about evolutionary change.