Conference (Programme): Evolution, Intentionality and Information, 29-31 May, 2013, BCSP, University of Bristol (United-Kingdom)

This three-day conference is the inaugural event of the Darwinism and the Theory of Rational Choice project, funded by the European Research Council and directed by Professor Samir Okasha. The conference will have an inter-disciplinary orientation, with invited speakers from philosophy, economics and the biological sciences. The conference will take place in Engineer’s House, Bristol, under the auspices of the Bristol Centre for Science and Philosophy (BCSP).

The aim of the conference is to examine the use of ‘intentional’, ‘strategic’ and ‘informational’ concepts in evolutionary biology. The process of evolution by natural selection, and its products, are frequently described using intentional language, as in talk of a gene or an organism’s ‘interests’, of genes and organisms ‘trying to achieve’ certain ends, of ‘conflicts of interests’ between them, and of ‘strategies’ designed to help secure a selective advantage. Similarly, the use of informational language to characterize the evolutionary process is also ubiquitous, as in talk of natural selection leading genes to encode information about the selective environment, and of environmental signals providing information to organisms that will enhance their fitness. The prevalence of these ways of describing evolution by natural selection raises a number of interesting philosophical issues. The key questions to be discussed are:

  1. Is the use of intentional and strategic concepts in evolutionary biology useful? Is it dispensable? It is ever harmful or misleading?
  2. Is the use of informational concepts in evolutionary biology useful?  Is it dispensable? Is is ever harmful or misleading?
  3. What is the relation, if any, between the use of intentional, strategic and informational concepts in evolutionary biology, and the actual evolution of intentionality, strategic behaviour and information-processing?

Plenary speakers:

Daniel Dennett (Tufts University), Denis Noble (Oxford Univeristy), Joan Roughgarden (Stanford University), Eva Jablonka (Tel-Aviv University), David Haig (Harvard University), Evelyn Fox Keller (MIT), Samir Okasha (Bristol University), Ken Binmore (Bristol University), Sahotra Sarkar (University of Austin-Texas)

Registration form (PDF, 152KB) may be downloaded.

Conference schedule

For further information about the conference please contact Mrs Jess Dunton (, or Dr David Crawford (

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