How Causal are microbiomes?

When:18 Jun 2019, 12:30pm - 2pm
Venue:Room 310, Morven Brown Building, Kensington Campus
Who:Kate Lynch, University of Sydney
Kate Lynch

Abstract: The microbiome has been claimed to cause a variety of human traits, from disease to behaviour. Often, the whole microbial community, the microbiome is targeted as causal when making these claims. But is this the right way to think about the causal role of microbiomes? While we know that genes – often many interacting complexes of them -are implicated in human behaviours, no one claims for instance, that ‘the genome’ causes intelligence. So should we be thinking of whole microbiomes as causal, or just certain component parts? In this talk I look at causal claims in microbiome research with a focus on proportionality of causal explanations.

Bio: Kate is a Research Fellow in The Theory and Methods in Biosciences group, at the University of Sydney. She previously worked as a post-doctoral researcher in an evolutionary genetics laboratory conducting experimental work. She tackles issues that intersect philosophy and biology, such as how to understand biological causation, the societal implications of genetic technology, and how to most effectively practise conservation biology. She is currently collaborating with biologists, psychologists and philosophers as part of projects funded by the Australian Research Council, Horticulture Innovation Australia, and the John Templeton Foundation.

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