Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France
Academic Year 2013-14
Asymptotic Hypotheses in Evolutionary Biology
Arnaud comes firstly from the field of eco-evolutionary biology. He was there interested in how temporal structures (notably time scales of biological phenomena) could affect biological theorizing. Arnaud embraced studies in philosophy of sciences when trying to understand how biology could achieve sound theoretization through seemingly slippery, yet ubiquitous, verbal accounts. He quickly realized that the topic would be worth a life of work, and decided to wait for greater maturity to tackle the problem. Thus, in his PhD Arnaud returned to eco-evolutionary biology, aiming at clarifying current theoretical controversies (e.g. between niche construction theory and the extended phenotype perspective) by showing that the competing perspectives implicitly posit different hypotheses about the time-scale separability of the diverse biological phenomena they claim to consider (mostly development, ecology and evolution).
While in Pittsburgh, Arnaud will work on the rationale for asymptotic hypotheses in evolutionary biology, that is, infinite population and/or infinite time (where time-scale separation hypotheses join in the dance). The aim of the project is to take note of the tension between the fundamental biological property of descent with modification, which can cause qualitative changes between organisms (through space or time), and the application of asymptotic hypotheses in biology, that require a qualitative homogeneity between organisms (again, through space or time).
While neither eating nor working, Arnaud enjoys teasing MDs with their norm concept, playing (and being played by) the piano, and swimming in open waters (as long as they remain liquid).