Pierre-Henri Gouyon


Pierre-Henri Gouyon

Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Département Origines & Évolution Institut de Systématique, Évolution, Biodiversité, 12 rue Buffon CP39 75005 Paris France


Evolution & Heredity

The theory of evolution launched by Darwin 150 years ago represents nowadays biology basis. To reach its full maturity, some discoveries had to be added, to start with, to those stemming from genetics. In its present state , this theory solves many scientific and philosophical problems and, of course, raises many new ones. It shows us how the selection and divergence principles combined to the heredity principles which include randomness could give birth to all the living species. In addition, it was able to give rise to numerous disciplinary fields: ecology, genetics, sociobiology, the biodiversity idea itself are stemming from this theory which stated Life uniqueness and made acting on it possible. However, this theory which raises many problems for the society, gave birth to various infamous ideologies and is rejected as well by religious extremists as by some ideologies. One major difficulty with the deep understanding and acceptance of this theory is that it contradicts a vision of the world which is given very early to children, a vision where the world is stable and has been created at once.


Biosketch: Pierre-Henri Gouyon was for almost 20 years full professor in Evolution & Systematics at the University of Paris-Sud (Orsay) where he was also head of the Department of “Ecology, Systematics and Evolution”, as well as professor at the “Ecole Polytechnique” where he launched the first course on Ecology & Evolution. He is presently Professor at the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris as well as Professor at the AgroParisTech, Sciences Po and Ecole Normale Supérieure. He is currently realizing his research in the “Institut de Systématique, Evolution Biodiversité” which is a joint unit between the Museum and the CNRS. He has been over the years deeply involved in the scientific and ethics committees of the department of life sciences of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) where he was Deputy-Director in 2000-2001, in the ethics committee of the INSERM (Medical Sciences) and in diverse committees of the ANR (funding agency for the sciences). He has been as well Managing Editor of the “Journal of Evolutionary Biology” of the European Society of Evolutionary Biology. His research has been devoted to the mechanistic study of evolution, from genetics to ecology. It includes on one side a theoretical part on the mechanisms concerning the major traits of living organisms (sex, death…), trying to combine the forces acting at different levels of integration (genes, individuals, metapopulations, species) and integrating chance, selection and historical contingency in the evolutionary processes. On the other side, a more experimental part concerns plants. His research works were published in numerous (# 100) publications in the greatest international journals (Nature, Science, PNAS…) as well as in academic books (such as, for instance “Gene avatars” Belin – Plenum for the English translation) as well as in numerous popularisation papers. At present, his main research areas concern the dispersal mechanisms linked with metapopulation dynamics (this subject is applied to the impact of GMO’s cultivation), the evolution of sex, constraints and interphyletic selection, and the evolution of shapes integrating the selective and morphogenetic factors (for instance, of pollen grain in Angiosperms). He has extensively participated in the debates concerning the relations between science and society. In particular, he has been involved in the debates over the social impact of the neoDarwinian theory on our perception of Life on one side and on the impact of biotechnologies (GMOs, RAMPs) on the environment, human health and ethics (debates with French and European experts or deputies; participation in national and international Boards and Conferences in diverse places in France and in other countries – USA, GB, Italy, Ukraine, Romania, Tunisia, Senegal, Denmark, Bolivia, Poland; interviews…). He belongs to various committees in the fields of biosafety, sustainable development, Ethics….