The Ramsey Philosophy of Biology Lab

About the lab

Philosophy is traditionally an individualistic pursuit driven by armchair reflections. Although there is certainly a place for this kind of philosophy, I feel that philosophy of biology is best approached through collaborative efforts within philosophy and across the disciplinary divides. I thus draw from the sciences and promote a “lab” culture in my students and postdocs by encouraging both individual-level pursuits, but also larger, lab-level collaborative pursuits. One example of such collaborative efforts is evoText, a powerful evolutionary text analysis tool that we are currently building. An extension of the Ramsey Lab is the Evolution Working Group (EWG), which has collaboratively published a series of book reviews (see Research for a list of EWG publications).

I have won awards for my teaching and for my research (see my CV) and am passionate about both. I am always on the lookout for talented undergrads wishing to pursue a PhD in the philosophy of biology and for graduate students interested in a postdoc position in my lab. My lab is in the process of relocating to the Institute of Philosophy at KU Leuven. If you are interested in joining my lab as a doctoral student or postdoc, please send me an email at

Lab placement

Lane DesAutels: Lane came to Notre Dame after earning his Ph.D. at the University of Maryland under the tutelage of Lindley Darden. We worked together until 2016 when Lane accepted a tenure track job Missouri Western University State University where he is Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion. Visit his website to learn more about his work.

Michael Deem: In 2015 Michael accepted a tenure track job at Indiana State University where he is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and an affiliated faculty member in The Center for Genomic Advocacy. He was on leave from ISU his first year while he spent the year as Pediatric Bioethics and Genomics Postdoctoral Fellow at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics. See his Lab research on the people tab or at his website.

Charles Pence: Charles is the first Ramsey Lab alumnus. During his time at Notre Dame he helped develop the evoText project and worked extensively on conceptual issues at the foundation of evolutionary theory. In 2014 he defended his dissertation, Chance in Evolutionary Theory: Fitness, Selection, and Genetic Drift in Philosophical and Historical Perspective, and accepted a tenure track job at LSU’s Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies. See his Lab research on the people tab or at his website.

Anne Siebels Peterson: Anne’s dissertation was advised by Michael Loux but she teamed up with the Ramsey Lab to work on philosophy of biology, especially conceptual issues related to homology. In 2014 she accepted a tenure track job at The Department of Philosophy at the University of Utah. See her Lab research on the people tab.

About me

I grew up in the wilds of northern California, where I developed a deep appreciation for nature and a love of science. I attended college at The Evergreen State College, spending much time in the field studying rocks, plants, and insects. At Evergreen I developed a passion for interdisciplinary studies and discovered the field of philosophy of biology. I then pursued graduate school in philosophy of biology at Duke University, studying under Robert Brandon and Alex Rosenberg. Upon completing my PhD from Duke, I took a job at the University of Notre Dame where until June 2015 I held an Assistant Professorship in the Department of Philosophy and was faculty in the Program in History and Philosophy of Science and a Reilly Fellow at the Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values. Beginning August 2015 I will be a fellow at the National Humanities Center. My new permanent academic home (beginning July 2016) is the Institute of Philosophy at KU Leuven, where I hold a BOFZAP Research Professor postion.


I am passionate about photography. I regularly teach a seminar on photographic theory and, when I get a chance, pursue photographic projects of my own. To see some of my photography, visit my photography website.

About the rhino illustration

The rhinoceros on the Home page was drawn in 1510 by Albrecht Dürer. I love this illustration for several reasons in addition to its manifest beauty. As a philosopher of biology I find it interesting that it was illustrated in the absence of any first-hand experience with (or photographs of) real rhinos. Instead, it is drawn from a description and sketch of a rhino. It is thus a concept-driven illustration, and it is fascinating to see which details he got right and which are far from reality. I also like that it is an illustration of Rhinoceros unicornus, the Asian one-horned rhino. Back in 2000, I was attacked by a member of this species while trekking through the Royal Chitwan National Park in southern Nepal—I therefore have great respect for these animals.