Lucas Matthews

Research Scientist

Office Address

331A Gilmer Hall


I am a philosopher of biology positioned as a postdoctoral research associate in Eric Turkheimer’s behavior genetics lab. Funded by the Genetics & Human Agency research initiative, which encourages collaboration between philosophers and scientists, my work is divided between empirical and philosophical research. On the one hand, I’m conducting quantitative analyses of twin data -- we’re currently investigating the heritability of extreme BMI. On the other hand, I’m conducting philosophical research on human intelligence and behavior genetics. We’re currently investigating the notion that human intelligence, as measured by IQ, represents the capacity of an individual’s cognitive abilities, as well as the philosophical implications of this view.

Another portion of my work seeks to track the strengths and weaknesses of various methodologies across the sciences. I’m currently interested in the role and value of mechanistic reasoning -- the tendency to view the world in terms of causally-interacting and organized, physical parts or entities -- in evolutionary biology. Part of what I do is demonstrate how mechanistic reasoning is prevalent even in areas of scientific practice where it is not obvious or expected. I have shown, for example, how statistical phylogenetics -- the science that seeks to create the so-called ‘tree of life’ -- makes use of ‘embedded mechanisms’, which are essentially hidden in mathematical models. My most recent research seeks to understand the relation between mechanistic reasoning and population genetics.



"On Closing the Gap between Philosophical Concepts and their Usage in Scientific Practice: a lesson from the debate about natural selection as a mechanism” (2016). Studies In History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Science, 55:pp. 21–28.

“Chance in the Modern Synthesis,” (2016, with A. Plutynski, K. B. Vernon, and D. Molter)

in Chance in Evolution (G. Ramsey and C. Pence, eds.).

“Embedded Mechanisms and Phylogenetics” (2015) in Philosophy of Science. 82(5):pp. 1116–


“Mechanisms and the Metaphysics of Causation” (forthcoming, with J. Tabery) in Routledge

Handbook of Philosophy of Mechanisms (S. Glennan and P. Illari, eds.).



“Population Genetics and Mechanism”

International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB);

University of Montreal, Canada; 2015

“Embedded Mechanisms and Phylogenetics”

Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association; Chicago, 2014

“Phylogenetic Mechanisms”

WISHKABIBBLE; Gorges du Verdon, France; 2013

“Conflicting Results for Natural Selection and the New Philosophy of Mechanisms” International Society for History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB); University of Montpellier, France; 2013

“Explanation and Integrative Complexity: Lessons from the Psychopath” International Society for History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB); University of Utah; 2011

“On the Value of Uncertainty: Lessons from Bootstrapped Phylogenies” International Society for History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB); University of Utah; 2011 (Poster Presentation)

Intermountain West Graduate Philosophy Conference; University of Utah; 2011

History and Philosophy of Biology in the Desert (HPBD); Arizona State University; 2011 “Fleshing Out the Epidemiological Account”

National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Experimental Philosophy Institute;

University of Arizona; 2012

“Functional Reductionism and the Unpalatable Alternative: a Reply to Khalidi’s 2008


University of Georgia Graduate Philosophy Conference; University of Georgia; 2011

“On a Neurophilosophy of Science: Churchland’s Neurocomputational Perspective of

Kuhnian Dynamics of Science”

Taft Research Fellowship Presentation; University of Cincinnati; 2010

“What is it Like to be a Dualist?”

Ohio State University Annual Undergraduate Philosophy Conference; Ohio State University;




Tanner Humanities Center Faculty Research Interest Group (RIG)

University of Utah, 2016

Department of Philosophy Tanner Fellowship

University of Utah, 2015-2016

National Science Foundation, Travel Grant

History of Science Society meeting, Chicago, 2014

Marriner S. Eccles Graduate Research Fellowship

University of Utah, 2014-2015

National Endowment for the Humanities, Visiting Scholarship

Summer Experimental Philosophy Institute; University of Arizona, 2012

Utah Humanities Council Graduate Research Fellowship

University of Utah, 2011-2012

Children’s Cognitive Research Lab, Research Assistantship

University of Cincinnati, 2009-2010

Charles Phelps Taft Undergraduate Research Fellowship

University of Cincinnati, 2009-2010