Publications links



Following are some of my more scientifically-inclined review articles, where I have more freedom to go off the deep end.

Scientific reviews
Title Description Author(s) Year Reference pdf?
Biology’s Second Law. Homeostasis, Purpose and Desire Modern biology has largely divorced itself from the idea that life is a purposeful phenomenon. While we have learned much from this stance, it has led evolutionary biology into a sterile intellectual wilderness, in which Darwinism’s original goal—a coherent theory of biology—has proved elusive, if not impossible to attain. In this essay, I argue that one of Darwin’s contemporaries—the French physiologist Claude Bernard—planted the seeds to do so in his core concept of homeostasis. Bernard’s insight into the essential nature of life stands on a par with biology’s “first law’’—evolution by natural selection—and points to the possibility of a truly coherent theory of life and its evolution. J S Turner in press In: Brian G Henning and Adam Scarfe (eds), Beyond Mechanism: New Frontiers in Biology and Evolutionary Theory N/A
Homeostasis and the forgotten vitalist roots of adaptation Adaptation, supposedly so central to the Darwinian idea, is actually steeped in the vitalist tradition of the 19th century. This philosophy, known as "scientific" vitalism, animated all aspects of biology, including physiology and evolution, was suppressed at the beginning of the 20th century. This has led ever since to a fracturing of biology. A reunification is possible if this scientifically respectable form of vitalism can be recovered. J S Turner in press In: Charles Wolfe and Sebastian Normandin (eds), Vitalism and the Scientific Image N/A
Semiotics of a superorganism Sequence memory in nucleic acids as only one form among a multitude of different forms of hereditary memory that can guide the evolution of lineages. What is often neglected are the rules that govern the “conversations” between these memories. A coherent theory of evolution must therefore account both for the nature of the physiological “conversations” that take place between these multitudinous memories, but also for what makes life a fundamentally unique phenomenon. J S Turner in press In: Kalevi Kull, Jesper Hoffmeyer and Aleksei Shariv (eds), Approaches to Semiosis of Evolution N/A
Superorganisms and superindividuality. The emergence of individuality in a social insect assemblage. The emergence of "organism-like" systems is a common motif in evolutionary biology. This is usually ascribed to genetic altruism, but this can explain only part of it. Individuality is more than simply an assemblage of genetically-related agents, but is fundamentally a cognitive system. J S Turner in press In: Frédéric Bouchard and Philippe Huneman (eds). From Groups to Individuals.Perspectives on Biological Associations and Emerging Individuality. The Vienna Series in Theoretical Biology. MIT Press N/A
Termites as models of swarm cognition Swarm intelligence arises when groups of agents, like bees or ants, cooperate to perform seemingly intelligent tasks. Termites, whose social systems are strongly convergent on bees and ants, have swarm intelligence too, that perhaps surpasses the bees and ants. JS Turner 2011 Swarm Intelligence. 5(1): 19-43 Beyond biomimicry
Beyond biomimicry. What termites can tell us about realizing the living building. "Termite-inspired" architecture, exemplified in Mick Pearce's Eastgate Centre in Harare, is one of the foundations of biomimetic architecture. Here, the inspiration comes from the elaborate systems of passive-ventilation in the Macrotermes mound. Here JS Turner
R Soar
2008 Proceedings of the First International Conference on Industrialized, Intelligent Construction (I3CON). Loughborough University, 14-16 May 2008. 18 pp. Beyond biomimicry
Homeostasis, complexity, and the problem of biological design. Living systems are certainly complex, but they are complex in a special way. Without an appreciation of what makes living systems complex, complexity science can fall short of the really interesting biology J S Turner 2007 Explorations in Complexity Thinking: Pre-Proceedings of the 3rd International Workshop on Complexity and Philosophy. Kurt A Richardson and Paul Cilliers (eds). Stellenbosch, February 2007. ISCE Publishing, Mansfield, MA. Pp 131-147. Homeostasis and complexity
Termites, water and soils. There is a fundamental connection between mound-building and mound water balance. This paper reports some preliminary results of our work in Namibia on this. JS Turner
E Marais
M Vinte
A Mudengi
WL Park
2006 Agricola 16: 40-45 Termites water soils
Termites as mediators of the water economy of arid savanna ecosystems. Termites move substantial amounts of water through their colonies, and are significant modifiers of rainfall percolation, Both point to termites, especially in dryer areas, as being significant agents of hydrology in arid savannas. JS Turner 2006 In: Dryland Ecohydrology, Amilcare Porporato and Paolo d’Odorico (eds). Kluwer. Signs of Design
Extended physiology of an insect-built structure. A review generated by a symposium of the American Entomological Society on Insect Biomechanics. I argue that the mound is a form of extended physiology, having many of the attributes of more conventional physiological systems. J S Turner 2005 American Entomologist 51(1): 36-38. Signs of Design
Gaia, the extended organism and emergent homeostasis. Gaia's most remarkable prediction is a biosphere-level physiology and all the organismal traits that implies, including global homeostasis. Gaia's most formidable challenge is to explain how such properties can emerge from the welter of competing genetic interests which the biosphere comprises. This article explores the problem of “emergent homeostasis” in a model experimental system, the colonies of fungus-growing termites, in which a homeostasis of colony atmosphere emerges from a symbiotic assemblage between two heterotrophs, termites and fungi. J S Turner 2000 Chapter 5 in Scientists Debate Gaia: The Next Century. Stephen H Schneider, James R Miller, Eileen Crist and Penelope J Boston (eds). MIT Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts. pp 57-70. (Contribution to the American Geophysical Union Chapman Conference on Gaia 2000, Valencia, Spain, June 2000.) Signs of Design
Extended phenotypes and extended organisms. Phenotype, whether conventional or extended, is defined as a reflection of an underlying genotype. Adaptation and the natural selection that follows from it depends upon a progressively harmonious fit between phenotype and environment. There is in Richard Dawkins’ notion of the extended phenotype a paradox that seems to undercut conventional views of adaptation, natural selection and adaptation. In a nutshell, if the phenotype includes an organism’s environment, how then can the organism adapt to itself? The paradox is< resolvable through a physiological, as opposed to a genetic, theory of natural selection and adaptation. J S Turner 2004 Biology and Philosophy 19(3): 327-352. (a special issue on the 20th anniversary of the publication of Richard Dawkins’ The Extended Phenotype. Signs of Design
Trace fossils and extended organisms: A physiological perspective. Organism-built structures have long been useful artifacts for students of evolution and systematics. A useful way to think about this aspect of organism-built structures is to treat them as external organs of physiology, channeling or tapping into energy sources for doing physiological work. This paper reviews briefly how burrows and nests can act as external organs of physiology at various levels of organization, and introduces the notion of organism-built structures as adaptive structures. J S Turner 2003 In: New Interpretations of Complex Trace Fossils: A special volume of Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 192: 15-31. Signs of Design
Maintenance of egg temperature. This is a comprehensive review of the physics of incubation by a brood patch, and outlines how different it is from the physics of egg cooling in air. Because most models for avian incubation energetics in nature use the latter, they are seriously in error. J S Turner 2002 In: Avian Incubation: Behaviour, Environment And Evolution, D C Deeming (ed). Oxford University Press, Oxford. pp 118-142. Signs of Design
Time and energy in the intermittent incubation of birds’ eggs. A review that outlines the fundamental concept of thermal impedance and how important it is to a proper understanding of egg incubation, in particular the intermittent incubation practiced by most birds. J S Turner 1994 Israel Journal of Zoology 40: 519-540. Signs of Design
The thermal energetics of incubated birds’ eggs. An earlier paper developing the idea of two dimensional heat flow through eggs, and what it means for the control of heat flow by the embryo through the egg. J S Turner 1991 In: D C Deeming and M W J Ferguson, eds., Egg Incubation: Its Effects on Embryonic Development in Birds and Reptiles. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. pp. 117-145. Signs of Design
Thermoregulatory behaviour in two species of iguanid lizards (Crotaphytus collaris and Sauromalus obesus): Diel variation and the effect of pinealectomy. Thermal selection by collared lizards (Crotaphytus collaris) and chuckawallas (Sauromalus obesus) was studied in continuously operating laboratory thermal gradients in a 12Lratio12D photoperiod in spring-summer. In both species, selected temperatures above the median were higher during the day than at night. Below the median selected temperature, however, nighttime temperature significantly exceeded daytime temperature in chuckawallas but not in collared lizards. Pinealectomized collared lizards selected significantly lower temperatures than sham-operated or intact controls. This effect was most pronounced at night. Pinealectomy had no effect on the temperatures selected by chuckawallas. The significance of these results is discussed in relation to the seasonal life-history strategy of these two species. B T Firth
J S Turner
C L Ralph.
1989 Journal of Comparative Physiology 159B: 13-20. N/A
The cardiovascular control of heat exchange: Consequences of body size. This is a review paper where I outline the effects of body size on the ability of reptiles to use blood circulation as a thermoregulatory device. Contrary to what had long been thought, there is an optimum size (roughly 20-30 kg) for using blood flow in this way. Effectiveness falls off at sizes below this because internal heat flow by conduction becomes so great. At body sizes larger, effectiveness falls off because appendages become a more important avenue for controlled heat loss, and the efficiency of these falls off as body sizes increase J S Turner 1987 American Zoologist 27: 69-79. Signs of Design
Sensory, neural and hormonal aspects of thermoregulation. A review written for the series Biology of the Reptilia. Bruce Firth and I review what is known about the neurobiology of reptilian thermoregulation. B T Firth
J S Turner
1982 In: C Gans and F H Pough, eds., Biology of the Reptilia vol. 12. Academic Press, London. pp. 213-274. N/A
The role of the pineal complex in ectotherm thermoregulation. This article reviewed the peculiar role of the pineal complex in reptilian thermoregulation, in particular the "third eye" C L Ralph
B T Firth
J S Turner
1979 American Zoologist 19: 273-293. Signs of Design