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Conference 2024

Understanding Life in a Changing Planet

Conference 2024

Conference 2024

20+2 Years of Egenis, the Centre for the Study of the Life Sciences: 17-19 April 2024

Call for Poster Session

Find more details here on our call for posters for the 2024 conference. Submissions Closed.


Marking the 20th anniversary of Egenis, this three-day event will feature an exciting line-up of distinguished international guest speakers, alumni, and current members of Egenis. Speakers will explore some of the key ideas developed at Egenis and their wider impact, as well as looking ahead to the main opportunities and challenges for the interdisciplinary studies of the life sciences in our changing planet. The event will also honour the achievements of Professor John Dupré, co-founder of Egenis and one of the world’s leading philosophers of biology.

The third day of the event will feature each of Egenis’ research strands: Biology and Environment, Health and Biomedical Research, Mind, Body and Culture, and Data, Knowledge and Artificial Intelligence.

Speakers include: 

Rachel Ankeny, Nancy Cartwright, Hasok Chang, Ford Doolittle, Jim Griesemer, Paul Griffiths, Scott Gilbert, Adrian Haddock, Jonathan Kaplan, Katie Kendig, Philip Kitcher, Tim Lewens, Lisa Lloyd, Alan Love, Thomas Pradeu.

Egenis Conference 2024 - Programme and Abstracts revised.

A day exploring the major philosophical themes of Professor Dupré’s distinguished career, and their significance for contemporary and future interdisciplinary studies of the life sciences.

09:15 Arrival, Coffee  
09:30 Introduction  

John Dupré: Philosophy as Iconoclasm

Hasok Chang (University of Cambridge)


Economics and the Big Wide World Outside

Nancy Cartwright (Durham University)

11:15 Coffee break  

Free Will Meets Human Behavior Genetics 

Jonathan M Kaplan (Oregan State University)

12:25 Lunch  

The Disorder of Processes: The Case of Human Nature

Tim Lewens (University of Cambridge)


“And the wine is bottled poetry”: Dupré on Reductionism and the Mental

Adrian Haddock (Universität Leipzig)

14:55 Coffee break  

Soil and what to make of it?

Catherine Kendig (Michigan State University)


Thou hast taught me, Silent River, Many a lesson, deep and long

Scott Gilbert (Swarthmore College)




The Mighty Worlds We Half Create

Public Lecture

Philip Kitcher (Columbia University)

18:00 Break  

18:30 onwards: Reception in Byrne House (home of Egenis)


In celebration of Egenis’ twenty-year history friends and alumni explore some of the important impacts and ideas the centre has helped create, finishing with a poster session showcasing current work in the history, philosophy, and social studies of biology.



Welcome and Introduction

Sabina Leonelli


Sex as Process

Paul Griffiths (University of Sydney)


Darwinizing Gaia

Ford Doolittle (Dalhousie University)


Coffee break



Roundtable on Prospects for Interdisciplinary Studies of Life Sciences

Making Classes

Staffan Müller-Wille (University of Cambridge)

Navigating the Challenges of Interdisciplinarity: Some Personal Lessons

Dan Nicholson (George Mason University)

From studies of to studies with

Jane Calvert (University of Edinburgh)





Promiscuous mutualisms: The contribution of philosophers, especially John Dupré, to the scientific understanding of symbiosis

Thomas Pradeu (Boudeaux University)


Case reports in times of pandemic: Evolving entities, evolving knowledge

Rachel Ankeny (Wageningen University)


Coffee break



Philosophy of Biology in an Interdisciplinary Key

Alan C Love (University of Minnesota)


Entangled Banks of the River Reproduction: Thoughts on Thickety Nature, Science and Philosophy

Jim Griesemer (UC Davis)


Concluding talk

John Dupré

17:30 – 19:30: Poster Session & Reception 

Current members of Egenis, as well as special guests, discuss major emerging topics in the social studies and philosophy of the life sciences. The discussion is organised along the four main strands of Egenis research activities.


Introduction & Opening 

Adam Toon and Katharine Tyler


Panel 1:

Biology and Environment theme

Environments across scales, values and contexts

The notion of an ‘environment’ is woven through scientific investigations, government policies and public imaginaries in a bewildering variety of ways. This panel and discussion brings together a diverse set of perspectives on what environments are, and why they matter, towards mapping similarities, differences and potential points of disagreement and tension. The session begins with a panel discussion. 5 panelists, who all interact with environments in different ways, from large-scale modelling, to public-facing heritage, to sociological and philosophical, will discuss how notions of environments play into their work. Several discussants from Egenis will then both pose questions and bring their own perspectives on the nature of the environment. Finally, the co-leads of the Biology & Environment strand will close with their own thoughts.

Panel: Melanie Smallman (UCL, Dept of Science and Technology Studies), Rose Trappes (Exeter, Egenis), Sam Scriven (Jurassic Coast Trust), Arwen Nicholson (Exeter, Physics & Astronomy), Andy Flack, (University of Bristol, Department of History)

Discussants: Astrid Schrader (Exeter, Egenis), Hugh Williamson (Exeter, Egenis/Business School), Oli Moore (Exeter, Egenis/CRPR)

Commentators: Adrian Currie (Exeter) and Angela Cassidy (Exeter)


Coffee break


Panel 2:

Data, Knowledge, and AI theme

Automation in Biological Research: Niccolò Tempini (Exeter), Silvia Milano (Exeter), Celso Neto (Exeter), James Wakefield (Exeter), Sara Green 

Commentators: Stephan Güttinger (Exeter) and Sabina Leonelli (Exeter)




Panel 3:

Health and Biomedical Research theme

Stigma emergence: A new theory of stigma change over time: Hannah Farrimond (Exeter)

Psychiatric fictionalism, diagnosis and epistemic injustice: Sam Wilkinson (Exeter)

The dynamic lifecycles of psychiatric categories: Ginny Russell (Exeter)

Commentator: Havi Carel (Bristol)


Coffee break


Panel 4:

Mind and Culture theme

Boundaries of the mind, boundaries of the discipline

In recent years, “4E approaches” have challenged the idea that to understand minds, we can focus exclusively on heads. These approaches instead defend a relational approach, one that sees minds as embodied, embedded, enacted, and maybe even extended beyond bodily boundaries and into the surrounding environment. Members of the “Mind and Culture” strand at Egenis have been at the forefront of this boundary-pushing work. They have applied 4E frameworks to diverse topics like emotions, perception and action, psychiatric disorder and classification, addiction, epistemology, modelling and scientific practice, technology and online sociality, religious cognition, artistic creativity, and musical experience. The influence of 4E frameworks continues to expand in philosophy, cognitive science, and beyond. This panel brings together leading scholars to discuss both their current work and future trends in 4E-inspired research.

Giovanna Colombetti (Exeter), Tom Roberts (Exeter), Becky Millar (Cardiff) 

Commentators: Paul Griffiths (Sydney), Lee Hogarth (Exeter)



Closing Discussion

 Sabina Leonelli, Adam Toon, Katharine Tyler



Associated activities

Exeter Science and Technology Studies (STS) Network Social, 5-7pm Tuesday 16th April, Byrne House 

Egenis has a strong tradition of STS scholarship in conversation with philosophy and history of the life sciences across multiple generations. This extends beyond our home department of SPSPA and in recent years STS has been flourishing at Exeter across many more disciplines, and concerns beyond the life sciences. In response, this lively community has recently started coming together for monthly brownbag lunch sessions. Come and join us to celebrate 20+2 years of STS at Egenis, bring a drink or snack to share, and meet old and new friends!  

Key conference information


The conference will take place in the Henderson Lecture Theatre in the XFi building, plus additional spaces. This is building number 30 on the Streatham Campus map. See the below drop-down boxes for information on travel and accommodation.


In person attendance  (includes lunches and refreshment breaks during the conference plus drinks reception).

£100.00 Registration - Standard

£40.00 Registration reduced - Exeter staff registration, Standard Poster Presentation

£0.00 Registration waived - Exeter PhD Students, Poster-presenting non-Exeter PhD Students and Poster-presenting Exeter Postdoctoral Researchers

Virtual attendance via Zoom

£50.00 Virtual standard registration

£25.00 Virtual reduced registration - Students, postdoctoral researchers, unemployed, retired

Register here 

Registration deadline 1st April 2024.

No refunds from 25th March 2024.


  • Exeter St David’s and Exeter Central are the main train stations in Exeter.
  • The main route from London is from London Paddington to Exeter St David’s but there is London Waterloo that runs to Exeter Central.


  • The main airports to the UK are London Heathrow and London Gatwick. However, there are a few flights to the smaller airpoirts at Bristol and Exeter.

Connections from airports

  • From London Heathrow. Take the Heathrow express to London Paddington for connecting train to Exeter St David’s. Alternatively take the Coach from London Heathrow to Exeter.
  • From London Gatwick. Take the train to either Exeter St David’s or Exeter Central. Please note that there will be train changes on route.
  • From Bristol. Take the coach to Bristol Temple Meads for connecting train to Exeter. Alternatively there are few coahes from the airport to Exeter.
  • From Exeter Airport. Take the number 4A bus to Exeter or take a taxi.

Useful links

Getting to the Campus

Please be aware that the campus is on a hillside, so there will be some uphill walking if you coming to the campus on foot. If you prefer not to walk, we ask that you use local sustainable travel rather than driving to the campus. The bus stop on Rennes Drive close to the conference venue.

There is a UNI bus connects Streatham Campus - Exeter Central railway station - City Centre - Central Bus Station - St Luke's Campus, every 20 minutes during term time. During the holiday period the UNI bus runs every 40 minutes. More information on the UNI bus is available here.


If you book accommodation at Holland Hall on the Streatham Campus, you can obtain a parking permit from the reption desk. Please let them know if you require a permit. There is limited pay and display parking on the campus or bordering the campus along Prince of Wales Road.

Visit here for more information on parking on campus.

Streatham Campus

  • Holland Hall - Student halls of residence (Streatham Campus), Clydesdale Road, Exeter EX4 4SA. Other options available.


Guest Houses

Organising committee and key contacts