Thomas Bonnin

Department: Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology
Discipline: Sociology and Philosophy
Research Centre/Unit: Egenis, the Centre for the Study of the Life Sciences

Project Summary

Updated 22/03/2018


This dissertation proposes an exploration of a variety of themes in philosophy of science through the lens of a case study in evolutionary biology. It draws from a careful analysis and comparison of the hypotheses from Bill Martin and Tom Cavalier-Smith. These two scientists produced contrasted and competing accounts for one of the main event in the history of life, the origin of eukaryotic cells. This case study feeds four main philosophical themes around which this dissertation is articulated. (1) Theorizing : What kind of theory are hypotheses about unique events in the past ? (2) Representation : How do hypotheses about the past represent their target ? (3) Evidential reasoning : What kind of evidence is employed and how do they constrain these hypotheses ? (4) Pluralism : What are the benefits and the risks associated with the coexistence of competing hypotheses? This work both seeks to rearticulate traditional debates in philosophy of science in the light of a lesser-known case of scientific practice and to enrich the catalogue of existing case studies in the philosophy of historical sciences.



(under review)

[In French] “La construction d'arbres phylogénétiques et le concept d'expérimentation” (with J. Lombard)

“A framework for evidential reasoning in historical sciences”, Biology & Philosophy

Review of G. Ramsey, C.H. Pence (eds.), Chance in Evolution, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press (2016), in History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences

Review of S. Roosth, Synthetic: How Life Got Made, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press (2017), in History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences


“Function and Malfunction in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences and Social Sciences”, Biological Theory. Thematic Issue on Function and Malfunction: Meeting Report, pp. 1-5 (with P. Hernández-Chávez, M. Hladky, D. Suarez Pascal)

[in French], "Utiliser des modèles en sciences historiques". Implications Philosophiques. URL = <>

Supervisory Team

Pr. John Dupré and Dr. Daniel Nicholson

Wider Research Interests

Broader interests

Philosophy of Science, Historical Epistemology, Philosophy of Biology, Philosophy of History, Philosophy of Medicine, Science and Technologies Studies, Social Epistemology, Biochemistry.

"Narrower" interests

Construction and evolution of disciplines, Evolution, Genomics in Society, Disagreement and controversies, Bioenergetics, Mitochondria, Narratives, Pluralism, Process Philosophy, Models in Science, Science and Literature, Popular Science, Scientific Rhetoric.