Curriculum Vitae


Perhaps you’re just interested in my qualifications. In this page, you’ll find my extended vita. You can find more details about me as a person, my research, or my teaching elsewhere.

Carlos Mariscal

Academic Positions

University of Nevada, Reno
September 2016 –

Assistant Professor

Department of Philosophy

Dalhousie University
September 2014 -August 2016

Herzberg Postdoctoral Fellow

Department of Philosophy, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, and
the History of Science & Technology Programme at the University of King’s College

Supervisors: W. Ford Doolittle of the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular
Biology & Gordon McOuat of the History of Science and Technology Programme


Duke University
September 2014

Ph.D. in Philosophy

Dissertation Title: “Universal Biology”
Co-Advisers: Alex Rosenberg & Robert Brandon
Committee: Karen Neander, Dan McShea (biology), V. Louise Roth (biology), Tyler Curtain (UNC)

May 2012

M.A. in Philosophy

New Mexico State University
December 2006

B.A. in Journalism & Mass Communications

Honors with Distinction

Areas of Specialization

Philosophy of Science, History & Philosophy of Biology, Philosophy of Astrobiology

Areas of Competency

Science, Technology & Society (STS), Logic, Applied Ethics (Esp. Biotechnology)

Publications & Presentations

  1. A Strategy for Origins of Life Research” (with Caleb Scharf , Nathaniel Virgo, Jim Cleaves,, Masashi Aono, Nathanael Aubert, Arsev Aydinoglu, Ana Barahona, Laurie Barge, Steve Benner, Ramon Brasser, Kuhan Chandru, Chris Butch, Leroy Cronin, Sebastian Danielache, John Hernlund, Piet Hut, Takashi Ikegami, Jun Kimura, Kensei Kobayashi, Shawn McGlynn, Brice Menard, Norman Packard, Robert Pascal, Juli Pereto, Sudha Rajamani, Eric Smith, Chris Switzer, Ken Takai, Feng Tian, Yuichiro Ueno, Mary Voytek, Olaf Witkowski, and Hikaru Yabuta)
    Astrobiology (Impact: 2.585)


    Write Up: “Collaboration: Come together to study life’s origins” by C. Scharf, N. Virgo & J. Cleaves
    Nature (Impact: 41.456)


  2. 2015

    Assessing Universality from a Single Example
    The Impact of Discovering Life Beyond Earth, Cambridge University Press

  3. 2015

    Convergent Evolution as Natural Experiment: The Tape of Life Reconsidered” (with Russell Powell)
    Royal Society Interface 5(6):20150040

  4. 2015

    Eukaryotes First – How Could That Be?” (with W. Ford Doolittle)
    Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 370: 20140322.

Works in Progress

  1. Universal Biology: Investigating Biology as it Must Be (Book Proposal) In Preparation for University of Chicago Press
  2. A paper on epistemic issues in astrobiology    Under Review in British Journal for Philosophy of Science
  3. An STS/Ethics paper on CRISPR/Cas9    Submitted to for Science, Technology & Human Values
  4. Requested for Annual Reviews of Microbiology

    “The New Synthesis in the light of Microbial Genomics” (With W. Ford Doolittle & Austin Booth)

  5. In Preparation for Nature Reviews Microbiology

    “Going to Extremes: Exploring Life’s Limits” (with W. Ford Doolittle)

Shorter Work
  1. 2015

    Not Your Grandpa’s Biotechnology” (with Angel Petropanagos) Impact Ethics: Making a Difference in Bioethics.

Book Reviews
  1. Powell, R. & C. Mariscal. 2014. “There is Grandeur in This View of Life: The Bio-Philosophical Implications of Convergent Evolution.” Acta Biotheoretica 62: 115-121. doi: 10.1007/s10441-014-9211-2
  2. Mariscal, C. 2010. “Epistemology, Necessity, and Evolution: A Critical Review of Michael Ruse’s Philosophy After Darwin.” Biology and Philosophy, 26(3), 449–457.
Invited Talks
September 2014
  1. “Universal Biology: Circumventing the N=1 Problem”
    Preparing For Discovery: A Rational Approach to the Impact of Finding Microbial,
    Complex, or Intelligent Life Beyond Earth
    – The Library Of Congress & the NASA
    Astrobiology Program
  2. March 2014

    “Evaluating Potential Evolutionary Systems in the Universe”
    Dalhousie University

  3. December 2013

    “Evolution is not Reducible to Physics”
    New Mexico State University

 July 2015
Papers Presented
  1. July 2015

    “Trends and Tendencies in Universal Biology” Biannual Meeting of the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB)

  2. July 2015

    “Convergent Evolution as a Natural Experiment”
    Biannual Meeting of the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and
    Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB)

  3. June 2014

    “Evolution reduces to Logic, not Physics”
    International Consortium for the History and Philosophy of Biology. Nature & Culture: The Ninth Annual Research Workshop – University of Cambridge

  4. June 2013

    “How to Make Astrobiology a Universal Biology”AbGradCon’13

  5. March 2013

    “Biology is not a Proper Subset of Physics: The Strong A-Life Program and the Domain of Biology” Duke/UNC History & Philosophy of Science, Technology, & Medicine Working Group

  6. June 2012

    “Evolution & Persistence”
    International Consortium for the History and Philosophy of Biology.
    Historicity: The Seventh Annual Research Workshop

  7. July 2011

    “What Universal Biology Should Be”
    Biannual Meeting of the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and
    Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB)

  8. June 2010

    “Reproduction as an Individuating Criterion for Life”
    International Consortium for the History and Philosophy of Biology.
    Reproduction: The Fifth Annual Research Workshop

  9. March 2007

    “Group Selection Adaptationism”
    New Mexico/West Texas Philosophical Society Annual Conference

Local Community Presentations
  1. March 2015

    “What it Means when Nature Repeats Itself”
    Philosophy Colloquium – Dalhousie University

  2. January 2015

    “Continua of Convergence”
    Center for Comparative Genomics and Evolutionary Bioinformatics – Dalhousie University

  3. October 2013

    “Regarding Biology as a Universal Science”
    Center for the Philosophy of Biology – Duke University

  4. December 2012

    “Universal Evolution: How Persistent Entities Evolve” (with Aryn Conrad)
    Center for the Philosophy of Biology – Duke University

  1. September 2014

    Symposium on the Societal Impact of Astrobiology – Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

  2. June 2013

    NASA Proposal Research Focus Group
    AbGradCon RFG

October 2011
  1. Evolution, Astrobiology, and Synthetic Biology: Defining the Common Foundations
July 2010
  1. The Science of the Conscious Mind
    Vienna Summer University (VISU)
Grants & Awards

Duke University

Duke Univesity Summer Research Fellowship


Dean’s Graduate Teaching Award Nominee


Katherine Goodman Stern Dissertation Year Fellowship

Granted to 7-8 PhD candidates each year. Provides stipend and benefits for an extra
year to focus on research. No teaching or other responsibilities are allowed while on
this fellowship.


Duke Univesity Summer Research Fellowship


Ford Foundation Program Dissertation Fellowship (honorable mention)


University Scholars Program Conference Funding Fellowship


Duke University Graduate School Travel Fellowship


Certificate for Philosophy of Biology

2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

Duke Philosophy Conference Presentation Travel Grant


Franklin Humanities Institute Graduate Digital Scholarship Initiative Seed Grant


Melinda French Gates’ University Scholars Program Fellow

This fellowship provides two years of funding as well as travel, mentoring, and
academic opportunities. Awarded to 6-8 graduate students each year. This fellowship
has been awarded to only one other philosophy graduate student since it began in 1999.


James B. Duke Endowment Fellow

Awarded to 20-30 graduate students each year, provides the first year of funding, four
years of summer funding, research and interaction opportunities. This is considered the
Duke Endowment’s most prestigious fellowship for graduate students.

New Mexico State University

Crimson Scholar


President’s Associates Fellow

Awarded to 15 students each year, provides full scholarship and stipend for four years.
This is New Mexico State University’s most prestigious scholarship.

Teaching Experience

Instructor with Full Responsibilities
Dalhousie University
Scheduled Fall 2015

• Ethics in Science

Duke University
Spring 2012

• Logic

Fall 2011, Fall 2012

• Introduction to Philosophy

Teaching Assistant Fellow
Duke University
Spring 2013

Think Again: How to Reason & Argue (A 150,000 student Coursera Initiative course with Walter Sinnott-Armstrong & Ram Neta)

Spring 2011

• Appearance and Reality (with Sara Bernstein)

Fall 2010

• Philosophy of Biology (with Robert Brandon & Dan McShea)

Fall 2009

• Philosophy of Biology (with Alex Rosenberg)

New Mexico State University
Spring 2006

• Introduction to Philosophy (with Jean Paul Vessel)

Professional Development

Conference Organization

NAI (NASA Astrobiology Institute)



Annual AbGradCon


Annual Research Focus Group

International Consortium for the History & Philosophy of Biology in association with the
Duke Center for the Philosophy of Biology, Duke Philosophy, Duke Biology, Duke Computer
Science, the Renaissance Computing Institute, and the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences
& Policy

Main Organizer, Session Chair, Commentator


Information & Transmission: Eighth Annual Research Workshop

International Consortium for the History & Philosophy of Biology in association with the
Duke Center for the Philosophy of Biology, Duke Philosophy, and Duke Biology

Co-organizer, Session Chair, Commentator


Form, Function and Homology: Fourth Annual Research Workshop

Duke University Scholars Program

Co-organizer, Presenter


Futures: An Interdisciplinary Symposium


Legacies: An Interdisciplinary Symposium

Professional Service


Acta Analytica
Acta Biotheoretica
Behavioral & Brain Sciences
Biology & Philosophy
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)
Science, Religion & Culture
Studies in History & Philosophy of Science Part C: Biological & Biomedical Sciences

Administrative Work

International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology

2011 –

Member, Webmaster, Publications Board Member

Duke Center for the Philosophy of Biology

2010 – 2014

Member, Organizer, Assistant Director


Duke Philosophy Department

Graduate Representative

  • Coordinated graduate student speaker visit

Hiring Committee Member

  • Coordinated graduate student speaker visit
  • Interviewed various applicants for a Metaphysics & Logic professor position

Duke University Scholars Program

2009 – 2010 & 2012 – 2013

Graduate Assistant to the Director

  • Co-organized two multi-disciplinary conferences
  • Helped coordinate mentoring program
  • Helped schedule interdisciplinary colloquia


  • Mentored undergraduates

Duke Kenan Institute for Ethics


Graduate Communications Assistant

  • Created, scheduled, filmed, edited, and promoted various ethics related events
  • Created and maintained digital multimedia outreach
  • Maintained website

Community Outreach

Philosophy Department – Duke

Organizer, Presenter, Moderator

October 2012

Spot the Fallacy” community-wide event during the first presidential debates
(With Walter Sinnott-Armstrong & Ram Neta)

October 2008

Spot the Logical Fallacy” university event during the first presidential debates

NAI (NASA Astrobiology Institute) – NASA

Presenter, Communicator

June 2013

Astro Speaks! (Astrobiology Public Speaking Competition)2013

June 2013

Astro Blitz! (Ask an Astrobiologist)

University Scholars Program – Duke

Co-organizer, Presenter

“What has the Future Ever Done for Me?“ Futures: An Interdisciplinary Symposium2013

June 2013

“Astrobiology in Crisis“ Legacies: An Interdisciplinary Symposium

March 2010

“Science Wars!“ Two Cultures: An Interdisciplinary Symposium


Primary language (fluent in reading, writing speaking)


Native tongue (fluent in reading, writing, speaking)



American Sign Language

Graduate Coursework

Philosophy of Science

Tad Schmaltz
(with Owen Flanagan & David Miller)
    Historical & Philosophical Perspectives on Science
John Roberts
    Philosophy of Science: Laws of Nature (UNC: Au)
John Roberts
    Philosophy of Science: Realism (UNC: Au)
Marc Lange & Matthew Kotzen
    Philosophy of Science: Explanation (UNC: Au)
Andrew Janiak & Alan Nelson
    Leibniz & Newton (UNC: Au)

Philosophy of Biology

Robert Brandon & Dan McShea
    A Missing Piece in Darwinism
Robert Brandon
    Philosophy of Biology
Michael Ferejohn
    Aristotle’s Teleology (Independent Study)
Alex Rosenberg
    A Priori Biology (Independent Study)
Derek Turner
      Issues in Macroevolutionary Theory


    (Centre for Philosophy of Science, Univ. Lisbon)
Frédéric Bouchard
      Units of Adaptation and Biological Individuality


    (Centre for Philosophy of Science, Univ. Lisbon)
Michael Ruse
      Charles Darwin and his Importance for Philosophy


    (Centre for Philosophy of Science, Univ. Lisbon)


V. Louise Roth
    Macroevolution (Au)
Mark Rausher
    Natural Selection
Tom Mitchell-Olds & Mohamed Noor
    Evolutionary Genetics
François Lutzoni & David Swofford
    Systematic Biology
Dan McShea & V. Louise Roth
    Group Selection, Sex & Fossils


Robert Brandon
    Symbolic Logic
Ram Neta & Matthew Kotzen
    Value Theory: Humor (UNC: Au)
David Wong
    Contemporary Ethics
Owen Flanagan
    Ethics Proseminar
Iris Einheuser & Andrew Janiak
    Metaphysics & Epistemology Proseminar
Karen Neander & Güven Guzeldere
(with Fred Dretske & David Sanford)
    Mental Causation
Sara Bernstein
    Teaching Philosophy (Two Semesters)
Sara Bernstein
    Dissertation Seminar

Dissertation Abstract

Title: Universal Biology

Committee: Robert Brandon (co-chair), Alex Rosenberg (co-chair), Karen Neander, Dan McShea (in biology dept.), Tyler Curtain (at UNC), V. Louise Roth (in biology dept.)

Abstract: Our only example of life is our own– which forms a single lineage. We know little about what life would look like if we found evidence of a second origin. But geometry, mechanics, and chemistry are all taken to be universal and each has predictable biological consequences. The surface-to-volume ratio property of geometry, for example, limits the size of unassisted cells in a given environment. This effect is universal, interesting, not vague, and not arbitrary. Furthermore, there are some problems in the universe that life must solve if it is to persist, such as resistance to radiation, faithful inheritance, and resistance to environmental pressures. If these universal problems have a limited set of possible solutions, some common outcomes must always emerge.
In this dissertation, I develop and defend an account of universal biology, the study of non-vague, non-arbitrary, non-accidental, biological generalizations. In his account, a candidate biological generalization is assessed by the assumptions it makes. A claim is accepted only if its justifications include principles of evolution, but no contingent facts of life’s history on Earth. In this way, we can assess the counterfactual support generalizations are able to provide. I argue we can have insight into the nature of life everywhere if we take care to use a stringent causal analysis. Life on Earth may be our single example of life, but this is only a reason to be cautious in our approach to life in the universe, not a reason to give up altogether.

Chapter Breakdown

Chapter 1 – Can we Regard Biology as Universal?
I begin my dissertation with a discussion of skepticism about universal generalizations in biology. Most notably, J.J.C. Smart, who argued that biology was akin to engineering in scope. Smart alleged biology will not have laws and thus not be universal. He claims that all biological generalizations will be vague, arbitrary, or false. I show him to be wrong by example and provide an analysis as to how thinking in terms of physics and natural kinds is liable to lead us astray when it comes to biology.

Chapter 2 – A Review of Alternative Universal Biologies
In this chapter, I do a critical literature review of the various accounts of universal biology that have been proposed since Darwin. I find many of the accounts underdeveloped or improperly grounded. I then sketch what would be accomplished in an ideal account of universal biology.

Chapter 3 – Regarding Biology as a Universal Science
This chapter, a version of which is included as a writing sample, develops my positive proposal. I show what aspects of prior views I have retained, give guidelines as to what in biology can count as universal, show the payoffs of my account, and defend it from preliminary objections.

Chapter 4 – Life Eliminativism in a Universal Context
I follow my account with a novel way of understanding evolution in continuous (rather than binary) terms. This understanding of evolution has a payoff in effectively justifying the arena of cultural evolution, stellar evolution, and chemical evolution: areas that have been thought of as evolutionary but don’t actually fit the standard Darwinian model.

Chapter 5 – On Possible Biology with Non-Actual Physics
The prior two chapters have an interesting consequence of showing the principles of evolution to ultimately be justified by a form of probability calculus. In this chapter, I argue that evolutionary systems are not a proper subset of physics and therefore the universality of biology is not derivative of the universality of physics.

Chapter 6 – Spaces of Possibility for Evolutionary Biology
I conclude with an exploration of possible biologies and assess what elements can be assumed to hold throughout.

(Click on each section to collapse it. This information was updated on November 19, 2015. It is also available in PDF format, which is more up-to-date.)