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W. Ford Doolittle

PhD (Stanford), FRSC

Professor Emeritus

Member, U.S. National Academy of Sciences
Department member since 1971

Tupper 8-A2


Genomics, Molecular Phylogeny, Gene Transfer

Research Areas

I examine prevailing concepts in genomics, molecular biology and microbial ecology, most often as these reflect understandings of evolution by natural selection. Particular concerns are multilevel selection theory, selection for differential persistence (instead of differential reproduction), holobiosis and selection on cycles and interactions, microbiology and the Modern Synthesis, origin of eukaryotes and cellular complexity, lateral gene transfer and the Tree of Life, and the meaning of “function”.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Aaron Novick PhD, University of Pittsburg
Jeremy Wideman PhD, University of Alberta

Lab Personnel

Wanda Danilchuk Research Assistant


  1. Doolittle WF, (2018) Processes and patterns of interaction as units of selection: an introduction to ITSNTS thinking. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 115:4006-4014 [PubMed]
  2. Mariscal C, Doolittle WF, (2018) Life and Life only: a radical alternative to life definitionism. Synthese : [Article]
  3. Doolittle WF, (2018) Speciation without species: a final word. Philosophy, Theory and Practice in Biology In Press:
  4. Wideman JG, Inkpen SA, Doolittle WF, (2018) Mutationism, not Lamarckism, captures the novelty of CRISPR-Cas. Biology & Philosophy In Press:
  5. Doolittle W.F. and Booth, A., (2017) It's the song, not the singer: an exploration of holobiosis and evolutionary theory. Biology and Philosophy 32:5-24 [Article]
  6. Inkpen SA, Doolittle WF., (2017) Molecular phylogenetics and the perennial problem of homology. J. Molec. Evol. 83:184-192 [PubMed]
  7. Doolittle W.F., (2017) Making the most of clade selection. Philosophy of Science 84:275-295 [Article]
  8. Doolittle W.F., (2017) Darwinizing Gaia. J. Theor. Biol. 434:11-19 [PubMed]
  9. Inkpen SA, Douglas GM, Brunet TDP, Leuschen K, Doolittle WF, Langille MI, (2017) The coupling of taxonomy and function in microbiomes. Biology & Philosophy 32:1225-1243 [Article]
  10. Brunet TDP, Doolittle WF, (2017) The generality of Constructive Neutral Evolution. Biology & Philosophy 33:2 [Article]
  11. Doolittle WF, Brunet TDP, (2017) On causal roles and selected effects: our genome is mostly junk. BMC Biology 15:116 [PubMed]
  12. Doolittle W.F. and Brunet, T.D.P., (2016) What is the Tree of Life? PLoS Genetics 12(4):e1005912 [PubMed]
  13. Booth A., Mariscal C. and Doolittle W.F., (2016) The Modern Synthesis in the light of microbial genomics. Annu. Rev. Microbiol. 70:279-297 [PubMed]
  14. Mariscal, C. and Doolittle, W.F. , (2015) Eukaryotes first: how could that be? Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B. 370(1678):20140322 [PubMed]
  15. Booth, A. and Doolittle, W.F., (2015) Eukaryogenesis, how special really? Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 112(33):10278-85 [PubMed]
  16. Brunet, T.D. and Doolittle, W.F. , (2015) Multilevel selection theory and the evolutionary functions of transposable elements. Genome Biol. Evol. 7(8):2445-2457 [PubMed] [Article]
  17. WF Doolittle, TDP Brunet, S Linquist, TR Gregory, (2014) Distinguishing between “function” and “effect” in genome biology Genome Biology and Evolution 6 (5):1234-1237 [Article]
  18. Doolittle, W.F., (2014) Natural selection through survival alone, and the possibility of Gaia. Biology and Philosophy 29:415-423 [Article]
  19. Doolittle, W.F., (2013) Is junk DNA bunk? A critique of ENCODE. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 110(14):5294-5300 [PubMed]