Research interests:

My primary research interests are in philosophy of biology and philosophy of science with my published work coalescing around two distinct projects: the investigation into evidential reasoning in evolutionary biology; and the exploration of philosophical and formal issues surrounding the evolution of social behavior.

My first project began with my dissertation research and focuses on identifying and evaluating the standards of evidence in science. While scientists generally know good evidence when they see it, articulating the evaluative standards is a more difficult task, one that benefits from a philosophical perspective. I make questions about evidence precise by focusing on evolutionary biology, especially molecular evolution. Contemporary developments raise old philosophical questions about evidence in fascinating new ways. The explosion of DNA sequence data, and the development of new statistical techniques for reconstructing evolutionary history or detecting signatures of selection, have been generating real controversies over how to interpret sequence data and how reliable any test involving these data are. 

My second project is a collaborative venture with Rory Smead on the evolution of social behavior. From slime molds to humans, navigating social life is a crucial evolutionary problem—reproductive success turns on the ability to form coalitions, interact with the right individuals, and coordinate divisions of labor. However, cooperative endeavors are not free. Such behavior tends to collapse when selfish free-riders take advantage of the benefits of cooperation but avoid the costs. This problem affects both evolutionary biology (individual level natural selection tends to favor selfish behavior over cooperation) and social evolution (public goods are threatened by individual self-interest leading to classic tragedies of the commons). There are now a number of solutions to the problem of cooperation. These solutions show how cooperation can originate and be maintained against the threat of free-riders. Yet most evolutionary models of cooperation do not explicitly consider spiteful behavior, and these harmful behaviors change the evolutionary dynamics in unforeseen ways. In this project we investigate how cooperation and spite interact across a range of evolutionary scenarios.

On the lighter side:

I attempt to get outside as much as possible: hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking and (telemark) skiing. At the moment, I have rediscovered bouldering and spend my free time pulling on rocks scattered across New England. Otherwise philosophy consumes much of my time leaving only little left to cultivate more worldly skills and tastes: cooking, photography (the photo galleries will return to the webpage soon), consuming post-apocalyptic science fiction, or tuning into Boston's fine independent radio.