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The evolution and philosophy of endogenous death

The fate of every organism is death—or so it seems. Death can be the result of external causes like accident, predation, or disease. But there are also emdogenous, heritable, non-incidental causes of death that span the scales of life, from molecules through unicellular and multicellular organisms to individuals in complex insect societies and, occasionally, even entire populations. Endogenous death appears to be a general evolutionary constraint. Life seems to be governed by it, since there are few, if any, examples that have breached this constraint. Perhaps the earliest form of endogenous death is programmed cell death, which traces back to the very earliest cells. This leads us to ask whether death is an inherent property of living systems. The subject of this fellowship is the philosophy and evolution of endogenous death and why its many manifestations emerged across all scales of biology. An overarching explanation for this apparent constraint is almost entirely unexplored. The aim of this project is to synthesize the field, to examine broad patterns of endogenous death across the scales of life and to search for fundamental philosophical explanations that can account for them.


Fellows involved in this project

South Africa

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Is any information on this page incorrect or outdated? Please notify Ms. Nel-Mari Loock at [email protected].