Progetto ACSEB

  • The Hierarchy Group: Approaching Complex Systems in Evolutionary Biology

In this project we develop Hierarchy Theory, proposed by eminent evolutionary biologist and paleontologist Niles Eldredge, that provides a new, unifying and non-reductionist approach for representing the complex multi-level structure of the organic world and an explanatory framework for a wide range of phenomena. The Hierarchy Group is an International aggregation of biologists, anthropologists and philosophers of biology. They share the claim for the existence of hierarchically arrayed matter-energy transfer and information biological systems of differing dimensions, from the genome to human world, to the entire biosphere. Despite the significant impact of Hierarchy Theory on evolutionary biology, no comprehensive treatment on the subject has been published until now. The aim of this project is to provide an extended and pluralistic new frame for understanding evolutionary phenomena, raising an International debate on the topic. This will be the first known attempt to propose a new unifying structure of evolutionary theory (genealogical hierarchy, ecological hierarchy, and their relationships), able to include the most recent wide-ranging experimental novelties (from ecology to evo-devo) and consider the relationships (bottom-up and top-down) between the levels of evolutionary change. Through a triennial program of researches and two International meetings (the first one in Italy and the final one in US), the main activities of the project will be the realization of an International multi-authored book, preceded by a set of peer-reviewed papers - with their International dissemination, promoted also by an International dedicated web site - and then the exploration of the executive possibility of establishing an International enduring network of Institutions and scholars devoted to the multi-level and Hierarchy Approach to evolution and its possible extension to new fields, like human evolution and cultural evolution. The outputs to be generated by this study will include: 1) an International multi-authored book dedicated to Hierarchy Theory; 2) a set of related peer-reviewed papers (we expect at least 3 peer reviewed articles to result from the research program); 3) an International dedicated web site; 4) a final event of dissemination (both for experts and general audience).


  • Professor Niles Eldredge

Principal Investigator

Team member


Hierarchy Theory, Multi-level units of change, Paleo-biology, Ecology, Evolution