Johannes Jäger

Presenting: Johannes Jäger

One of the speakers at The Organic and the Normative conference, taking place between July 30–August 1, 2024 in Ljubljana, Slovenia, is going to be Johannes Jäger.

Johannes Jäger is an evolutionary systems biologist and philosopher, originally trained as a Drosophila geneticist and modeller of biological regulatory networks. He was a group leader at the CRG Barcelona, a fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and the director of the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research (KLI) in Klosterneuburg, Austria. He is a recurrent guest lecturer in evolutionary system biology at the University of Vienna, and the D’Alembert Research Chair 2020/21 at the Institut d’Études Avancées (IEA) Paris. Johannes’ research interests are (the evolution of) complex regulatory systems, organismic agency, and innovation in evolution as well as academic research. He is an advocate of “open science.” Some of his projects combine arts and science. He also develops transdisciplinary workshops with unusual formats that focus on collaboration and sharing of information between researchers from different fields.

Highlighted Article

Jaeger, Johannes. (2024). Assembly Theory: What It Does and What It Does Not Do. Journal of Molecular Evolution. 92. 10.1007/s00239-024-10163-2.

A recent publication in Nature has generated much heated discussion about evolution, its tendency towards increasing diversity and complexity, and its potential status above and beyond the known laws of fundamental physics. The argument at the heart of this controversy concerns assembly theory, a method to detect and quantify the influence of higher-level emergent causal constraints in computational worlds made of basic objects and their combinations. In this short essay, I briefly review the theory, its basic principles and potential applications. I then go on to critically examine its authors’ assertions, concluding that assembly theory has merit but is not nearly as novel or revolutionary as claimed. It certainly does not provide any new explanation of biological evolution or natural selection, or a new grounding of biology in physics. In this regard, the presentation of the paper is starkly distorted by hype, which may explain some of the outrage it created.