I'm going to Halifax NS (Canada) next week to attend a very exciting conference with a catchy title: Questioning the Tree of life. This is legitimate scientific debate about the tree of life metaphor and its validity in light of massive horizontal gene transfers (HGT, also known as lateral gene transfers - LGT) during the early evolution of single cell organisms. It brings together scientists and philosophers who share an interest in this problem. Should be a blast!
I'm supposed to report the meeting on my blog but I don't know where I'll find the time. Here are the main speakers.
W. Ford Doolittle
Tree of Life, Tree of Cells, LUCA and other questionable entities
Thinking laterally on the tree of life: An historical overview
The series, the network, and the tree: Changing metaphors of order in nature
The origins and politics of trees and non-hierarchical taxonomic systems
The impact of different LGT scenarios on simulated genome evolution
Scientific models and the history of life: Deep disagreement or mere misunderstanding?
The indistinguishability of patterns created through gene transfer between preferred partners and patterns created through shared ancestry
Inferring phylogenetic networks
Specimen choice and the implications of modern technology in tree construction
Fragmented speciation in bacteria: The failure of a coalescent model
Defining biodiversity in a world with horizontal gene transfer
Evolutionary units: Breaking down species concepts
Conceptual revisions deriving from the loss of the Tree
Philosophy of biology, Ernst Mayr, and the Tree of Life
Lateral thinking about trees
Trees, trellises, and the Garden of Eden
TOL issues in macrobes as they relate to taxonomic practice
Was Darwin wrong about the nature of species and speciation?
LUCA and LECA: Gene genesis in the genome of Eden
On the roots of the tree of life
Endosymbiosis and gene transfers from endosymbionts, the most glaring insult to the tree
Genic and genomic threads in the tapestry of photosynthetic life: Implications for ‘tree thinking’
Endosymbiosis in light of reflections on symbiosis and the superorganism
On arguments over the tree of life
Deconstructing deconstructions of the Tree of Life: Why a tree of microbes might be realizable, meaningful and useful
Analysing analyses of Tree of Life arguments: A commentary on Wilson and Roger
Cultural politics and the Tree of Life