The Virus Philosopher: Nathalie Gontier Takes Viral Structures and Functions to a Higher Plane

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By Richard Jacobs. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Nathalie Gontier is a philosopher of science who specializes in evolutionary theory with a focus on viruses and immune system coevolution. This podcast adds a new angle to Richard's special series exploring viral spread and behavior in preparation for his book. She explores

  • How the "are viruses alive" conundrum is addressed by multiple perspectives,
  • How Aristotle and Descartes might approach discussions on viral agency, and
  • How means of opportunity have shaped virus behaviors such as quorum sensing and entry points.

Nathalie Gontier is the founder and director of the Applied Evolutionary Epistemology Lab at the University of Lisbon in Portugal. She's a returning guest and spends this discussion digging deeper into virus types, evolution, and behavior. She's very interested in viruses because they are one of most common parasites that every life form has to cope with. She studies how that interaction occurs and does this work alongside scientists to conceptualize this form of interaction with the hope of increasing our understanding. She establishes from the beginning that viruses do not exclude any form of life from their activity and live inside the cells of archaea, bacteria, and all eukaryotes.

She addresses COVID-19 directly, noting that it is way up in the food chain of the virus domain. She comments that it is amazing how one virus can spread and effect so many people quickly as we approach about one million dead from COVID-19 worldwide. Then she tackles some of Richard's tough questions regarding viruses, but gives answers quite different from previous guests with her science philosophy perspective. She has solid details to back up her answers, such as a study in Israel that proved quorum sensing and viruses' ability to communicate about whether to attack their biological host. She ends with an elegant description of their place in our human bio system. Listen in for some sharp discussion and commentary about viruses.

For more about her work, see the Applied Evolutionary Epistemology Lab page and find her YouTube channel. Available on Apple Podcasts: apple.co/2Os0my

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