Maël Montévil

Maël Montévil
Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris / CNRS · République des Savoirs

Doctor of Philosophy

About

78
Publications
21,671
Reads
How we measure 'reads'
A 'read' is counted each time someone views a publication summary (such as the title, abstract, and list of authors), clicks on a figure, or views or downloads the full-text. Learn more
1,375
Citations
Introduction
Maël Montévil is a theoretical biologist, working at the crossroad of experimental biology, mathematics, and philosophy of science. His work focuses on the theoretical foundations of biology, and the role that mathematics can play in this field. He also applies the general frameworks that he develops to current issues such as endocrine disruptors and more generally the antropocene. See https://montevil.org

Publications

Publications (78)
Preprint
Biologists increasingly report anthropogenic disruptions of both organisms and ecosystems, suggesting that these processes are a fundamental, qualitative component of the Anthropocene. Nonetheless, the notion of disruption has not yet been theorized in biology. To progress in that regard, we work on a special case. Relatively minor temperature chan...
Article
Full-text available
The Anthropocene crisis is frequently described as the rarefaction of resources or resources per capita. However, both energy and minerals correspond to fundamentally conserved quantities from the perspective of physics. A specific concept is required to understand the rarefaction of available resources. This concept, entropy, pertains to energy an...
Article
Full-text available
Turing distingue soigneusement l'imitation de la modélisation d'un phénomène. Cette dernière vise à saisir la structure causale du phénomène étudié. En biologie, il n'y a cependant pas de cadre théorique bien établi pour encadrer la pratique de modélisation. Nous partons de l'articulation entre la compréhension du vivant et la thermodynamique, en p...
Article
Full-text available
En examinant le second tome de Qu’appelle-t-on panser (1), le théoricien de la biologie et épistémologue Maël Montévil, qui a collaboré avec Bernard Stiegler à la fois sur des questions théoriques et sur des expérimentations territoriales, s’arrête sur le rôle des sciences dans l’Anthropocène pour souligner leur difficulté à penser cette ère et, ce...
Article
Full-text available
Symmetries play a major role in physics, in particular since the work by E. Noether and H. Weyl in the first half of last century. Herein, we briefly review their role by recalling how symmetry changes allow to conceptually move from classical to relativistic and quantum physics. We then introduce our ongoing theoretical analysis in biology and sho...
Article
Full-text available
Most mathematical modeling in biology relies either implicitly or explicitly on the epistemology of physics. The underlying conception is that the historicity of biological objects would not matter to understand a situation here and now, or, at least, historicity would not impact the method of modeling. We analyze that it is not the case with concr...
Book
Full-text available
M. Montévil, B. Stiegler, G. Longo, A. Soto, C. Sonnenschein, ANTHROPOCÈNE, EXOSOMATISATION ET NÉGUENTROPIE, dans B. Stiegler (curat.) "BIFURQUER, Eléments de réponses à Antonio Guterres et Greta Thunberg", PARIS, 2020: (AnthropoceneNeguEntrop.pdf)
Article
Full-text available
We address the identity of biological organisms at play in experimental and modeling practices. We first examine the central tenets of two general conceptions, and we assess their respective strengths and weaknesses. The historical conception, on the one hand, characterizes organisms' identity by looking at their past, and specifically at their gen...
Article
Full-text available
Background: The Consortium Linking Academic and Regulatory Insights on Bisphenol-A (CLARITY-BPA) is a rare collaboration of guideline-compliant (core) studies and academic hypothesis-based studies to assess the effects of bisphenol A (BPA). Objectives: We aimed to a) determine whether BPA showed effects on the developing rat mammary gland using ne...
Article
Full-text available
L'invention et le développement des ordinateurs a ouvert de nouvelles possibilités pour la modélisation. En physique, l'existence de théories mathématisées permet d'utiliser l'ordinateur pour calculer des solutions approchées à des problèmes déjà bien circonscrits théoriquement et épistémologiquement. En biologie, par contre, il n'existe pas de thé...
Article
Full-text available
We provide a new perspective on the relation between the space of description of an object and the appearance of novelties. One of the aims of this perspective is to facilitate the interaction between mathematics and historical sciences. The definition of novelties is paradoxical: if one can define in advance the possibles, then they are not genuin...
Preprint
Background CLARITY-BPA is a rare collaboration of guideline-compliant (core) studies and academic hypothesis-based studies to assess the effects of bisphenol A (BPA). Objectives 1) determine BPA’s effects on the developing rat mammary gland using new quantitative and established semi-quantitative methods in two labs, 2) develop a software tool for...
Article
Full-text available
Like theoretical physics, theoretical biology is not just mathematical modeling. Instead, theoretical biology should strive to find suitable first principles to ground the understanding of biological phenomena and ultimately frame biological experiments and mathematical models. First principles in physics are expressed in terms of symmetries and th...
Article
Full-text available
We characterize access to empirical objects in biology from a theoretical perspective. Unlike objects in current physical theories, biological objects are the result of a history and their variations continue to generate a history. This property is the starting point of our concept of measurement. We argue that biological measurement is relative to...
Chapter
Full-text available
La répétitivité et la réversibilité ont longtemps été considérées comme des traits caractéristiques de la connaissance scientifique. Dans la génétique des populations, la répétitivité est illustrée par un certain nombre d'équilibres réalisés dans des conditions spécifiques. Étant donné que ces équilibres sont maintenus en dépit du renouvellement de...
Chapter
Biology is a field in which variation has a fundamental theoretical role. Faced with the diversity of the living and faced with the internal heterogeneity of organisms, the human mind can sometimes seem a bit powerless. The contemporary possibility of developing immense digital databases, collaboratively, therefore appears as a major opportunity. T...
Chapter
This chapter briefly presents and describes the three main principles that the group proposes for a theory of organisms, namely: the default state, proliferation with variation and motility, the principle of variation and the principle of organization. It is crucial to critique the philosophical and theoretical position on which the biological rese...
Chapter
Full-text available
Some authors assert that the analysis of huge databases could replace the scientifc method. On the contrary, we argue that the best way to make these new technologies bear fruits is to frame them with theories concerning the phenomena of interest. Such theories hint to the observable that should be taken into account and the mathematical structures...
Article
Full-text available
Upshot: I discuss convergences between the approach of the authors and my work aiming for a theory of organisms. I also discuss some pitfalls and challenges pertaining to biological randomness, which, I argue, require original developments.
Article
Full-text available
Two main theories aim at understanding carcinogenesis: the reductionist SMT locates cancer in cancer cells, while the organi-cist TOFT locates cancer at the tissue level. For TOFT, the 'cancer cell' is a phlogiston, SMT is an old paradigm which ought to be replaced. Recently two critics have argued that TOFT and SMT, despite their apparent strong i...
Chapter
Full-text available
Mathematical modeling is a very powerful tool to understand natural phenomena. Such a tool carries its own assumptions and should always be used critically. In this chapter we highlight the key ingredients and steps of modeling and focus on their biological interpretation. In particular, we discuss the role of theoretical principles in writing mode...
Article
Full-text available
This short text summarizes the work in biology proposed in our book, Perspectives on Organisms, where we analyse the unity proper to organisms by looking at it from different viewpoints. We discuss the theoretical roles of biological time, complexity, theoretical symmetries, singularities and critical transitions. We explicitly borrow from the conc...
Article
Full-text available
Book review of Justin Garson (2016) A Critical Overview of Biological Functions. Springer International Publishing, Dordrecht. ISBN: 978-3-319-32020-5, 113 pages, price: $54.99 (paperback)
Chapter
Full-text available
Repetitiveness and reversibility have long been considered as characteristic features of scientific knowledge. In theoretical population genetics, repetitiveness is illustrated by a number of genetic equilibria realized under specific conditions. Since these equilibria are maintained despite a continual flux of changes in the course of generations...
Preprint
Full-text available
The idea that biological information is created by evolution, passed on in heredity, and expressed during development is an attractive gloss on what has been revealed by the last century of advances in biology. But on closer examination it is hard to see what scientific substance corresponds to this vision. Several biologists and philosophers of bi...
Preprint
Full-text available
The interventionist account has gained momentum within philosophy of causation. However, its ability to account for explanations derived from dynamical systems has been put into question. In particular, it has been argued that the fact that one cannot intervene on a function and its time-derivative in a modular way, i.e. without affecting the other...
Chapter
Full-text available
Computer simulations brought remarkable novelties to knowledge construction. In this chapter, we first distinguish between mathematical modeling, computer implementations of these models and purely computational approaches. In all three cases, different answers are provided to the questions the observer may have concerning the processes under inves...
Chapter
Full-text available
Certains auteurs affirment que l'analyse des grandes bases de données pourrait remplacer la méthode scientifique. A contrario, nous argumentons que la bonne manière de faire fructifier ces nouveautés techniques est de les encadrer théoriquement. En biologie, en particulier, il nous semble urgent de développer une théorie des organismes.
Chapter
Full-text available
Les organismes, qu'ils soient uni ou multi-cellulaires, sont des agents capables de créer leurs propres normes ; ils articulent continuellement leur capacité à créer de la nouveauté et de la stabilité, c'est-à-dire qu'ils combinent plasticité et robustesse. Ici, nous présentons et articulons brièvement les trois principes proposés récemment pour un...
Article
Full-text available
We developed 3D culture methods that reproduce in vitro mammary gland ductal morphogenesis. We are proposing a conceptual framework to understand morphogenetic events based on epistemologically sound biological principles instead of the common practice of using only physical principles. More specifically, our theoretical framework is based on the p...
Article
Full-text available
In multicellular organisms, relations among parts and between parts and the whole are contextual and interdependent. These organisms and their cells are ontogenetically linked: an organism starts as a cell that divides producing non-identical cells, which organize in tri-dimensional patterns. These association patterns and cells types change as tis...
Article
Full-text available
Darwin introduced the concept that random variation generates new living forms. In this paper, we elaborate on Darwin's notion of random variation to propose that biological variation should be given the status of a fundamental theoretical principle in biology. We state that biological objects such as organisms are specific objects. Specific object...
Article
Full-text available
Organisms, be they uni- or multi-cellular, are agents capable of creating their own norms; they are continuously harmonizing their ability to create novelty and stability, that is, they combine plasticity with robustness. Here we articulate the three principles for a theory of organisms proposed in this issue, namely: the default state of prolifera...
Article
Full-text available
In the search of a theory of biological organisms, we propose to adopt organization as a theoretical principle. Organization constitutes an overarching hypothesis that frames the intelligibility of biological objects, by characterizing their relevant aspects. After a succinct historical survey on the understanding of organization in the organicist...
Article
Full-text available
The principle of inertia is central to the modern scientific revolution. By postulating this principle Galileo at once identified a pertinent physical observable (momentum) and a conservation law (momentum conservation). He then could scientifically analyze what modifies inertial movement: gravitation and friction. Inertia, the default state in mec...
Article
Full-text available
Three-dimensional (3D) culture models are critical tools for understanding tissue morphogenesis. A key requirement for their analysis is the ability to reconstruct the tissue into computational models that allow quantitative evaluation of the formed structures. Here, we present Software for Automated Morphological Analysis (SAMA), a method by which...
Data
Visual representation of parameters. This figure is a representation of how elongation and branching are calculated by SAMA. The measurement of elongation as shown in Panel A has been explained using a 3D cylinder (representing an epithelial structure) in which the three axes have been labeled as L, M and S. Elon1 is the ratio of the long axis to t...
Data
Validation of SAMA. Panel A: Computer generated images of four test conditions. Each one is a single representative image of the complete stack. Panel B: Resulting SAMA output of four parameters each compared to the reference condition (C1). (PDF)
Article
Full-text available
Lacking an operational theory to explain the organization and behaviour of matter in unicellular and multicellular organisms hinders progress in biology. Such a theory should address life cycles from ontogenesis to death. This theory would complement the theory of evolution that addresses phylogenesis, and would posit theoretical extensions to acce...
Article
Full-text available
We propose a conceptual and formal characterisation of biological organisation as a closure of constraints. We first establish a distinction between two causal regimes at work in biological systems: processes, which refer to the whole set of changes occurring in non-equilibrium open thermodynamic conditions; and constraints, those entities which, w...
Chapter
Full-text available
Ce texte présente un modèle pour le temps biologique ainsi qu'un certain nombre d'idées plus générales sur l'articulation entre mathématiques et objets biologiques, fondées sur des propositions théoriques. Nous décrivons d'abord un modèle géométrisant le temps des mammifères, basé en partie sur la notion d'allométrie. Ce modèle permet de mettre en...
Article
Full-text available
In this article, we apply the perspective of intraorganismal ecology by investigating a family of ecological models suitable to describe a gene therapy for a particular metabolic disorder, the adenosine deaminase deficiency. The gene therapy is modeled as the prospective ecological invasion of an organ (here, bone marrow) by genetically modified st...
Article
Full-text available
In this article, we discuss the perspective of intraorganismal ecology by investigating a family of ecological models. We consider two types of models. First-order models describe the population dynamics as being directly affected by ecological factors (here understood as nutrients, space, etc). They might be thought of as analogous to Aristotelian...
Chapter
Full-text available
This note introduces recent work in Theoretical Biology by borrowing from the Introduction(chapter 1) of the book by the authors: “Perspectives on Organisms: Biological Time, Symmetries and Singularities”, Springer, 2014. The idea is to work towards a Theory of Organisms analogue and along the Theory of Evolution, where ontogenesis could be conside...
Article
Full-text available
Mammary gland morphogenesis involves ductal elongation, branching, and budding. All of these processes are mediated by stroma - epithelium interactions. Biomechanical factors, such as matrix stiffness, have been established as important factors in these interactions. For example, epithelial cells fail to form normal acinar structures in vitro in 3D...
Chapter
Full-text available
This chapter reviews experimental results showing scaling, as a fundamental form of “theoretical symmetry” in biology. Allometry and scaling are the transformations of quantitative biological observables engendered by considering organisms of different sizes and at different scales, respectively. We then analyze anatomical fractal-like structures,...
Chapter
Full-text available
This chapter analyzes, in terms of critical transitions, the phase spaces of biological dynamics. The phase space is the space where the scientific description and determination of a phenomenon is given.We first hint to the historical path that lead physics to give a central role to the construction of a sound notion of phase space, as a condition...
Chapter
Full-text available
Symmetries play a major theoretical role in physics, in particular since the work by E. Noether and H. Weyl in the first half of last century. We first present a few examples of how symmetries allow to objectivize physical phenomena and then a short survey of conceptual and technical aspects of symmetries and symmetry breakings, beginning by the ro...
Chapter
In this chapter, we first present the basic principles of a relatively new area of physics, the analysis of critical phase transitions and more generally the theory of criticality. Then, we will introduce some mathematical methods that set the physics of criticality on robust grounds.We will also discuss briefly some variation on the theme of criti...
Chapter
Full-text available
In this chapter, we introduce the notion and the analysis of phenotypic complexity, as anti-entropy, proposed in [Bailly & Longo, 2009] and develop further theoretical consequences. In particular, we analyze how randomness, an essential component of biological variability, is associated to the growth of biological organization, both in evolution an...
Chapter
In this book, the physical singularity of life phenomena has been analyzed by means of a permanent “constructive tension” with respect to the driving concepts and theories of the inert. In this chapter, we explicitly outline some key conceptual analogies, transferals of methodologies and of theoretical instruments between physics and biology, which...
Chapter
The historical dynamic of knowledge is a permanent search for “meaning” and “objectivity”. In order to make natural phenomena intelligible, we single out objects and processes, by an active knowledge construction, within our always enriched historical experience. Yet, the scientific relevance of our endeavors towards knowledge may be analyzed and c...
Article
Full-text available
This paper analyzes, in terms of critical transitions, the phase spaces of biological dynamics. The phase space is the space where the scientific description and determination of a phenomenon is given. We argue that one major aspect of biological evolution is the continual change of the pertinent phase space and the unpredictability of these change...
Chapter
Full-text available
En parcourant un fil conducteur de l’évolution darwinienne, on trouve çà et là la formation du simple, comme résultat de la complexité des trajectoires évolutives : par exemple, la variété, la richesse, la … complexité des bauplan de la faune de Burgess et Ediacara (Gould, 1989) s’est transformée en la « simplicité » des bauplan qui suivront et de...
Article
Full-text available
Biological thinking is structured by the notion of level of organization. We will show that this notion acquires a precise meaning in critical phenomena: they disrupt, by the appearance of infinite quantities, the mathematical (possibly equational) determination at a given level, when moving at an "higher" one. As a result, their analysis cannot be...
Article
Full-text available
The physical singularity of life phenomena is analyzed by means of comparison with the driving concepts of theories of the inert. We outline conceptual analogies, transferals of methodologies and theoretical instruments between physics and biology, in addition to indicating significant differences and sometimes logical dualities. In order to make b...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Biological evolution is a complex blend of ever changing structural stability, variability and emergence of new phenotypes, niches, ecosystems. We wish to argue that the evolution of life marks the end of a physics world view of law entailed dynamics. Our considerations depend upon discussing the variability of the very "contexts of life": the inte...
Chapter
Full-text available
In this text, we revisit part of the analysis of anti-entropy in [4] and develop further theoretical reflections. In particular, we analyze how randomness, an essential component of biological variability, is associated to the growth of biological organization, both in ontogenesis and in evolution. This approach, in particular, focuses on the role...
Chapter
Full-text available
Abstract Nous présentons dans ce texte deux approches théoriques de l'autonomie de la temporalité biologique. Tout d'abord nous distinguerons ses rythmes de type physique (circadiens, circannuels, ...) de ses rythmes proprement biologiques (cardiaques, respiratoires, métaboliques, …) qui seront abordés par une dimension temporelle propre. Dès lors,...
Book
Full-text available
International Workshop on Theoretical Computer Science, WTCS 2012, Dedicated to Cristian S. Calude on the Occasion of His 60th Birthday, Auckland, New Zealand, February 21-24, 2012, Revised Selected and Invited Papers
Article
Full-text available
Symmetries play a major role in physics, in particular since the work by E. Noether and H. Weyl in the first half of last century. Herein, we briefly review their role by recalling how symmetry changes allow to conceptually move from classical to relativistic and quantum physics. We then introduce our ongoing theoretical analysis in biology and sho...
Article
Full-text available
This chapter proposes a mathematical schema for describing some features of biological time. The key point is that the usual physical (linear) representation of time is insufficient, in our view, for the understanding key phenomena of life, such as rhythms, both physical (circadian, seasonal, . . . rhythms) and properly biological ones (heart beati...
Article
Full-text available
This article proposes an abstract mathematical frame for describing some features of cognitive and biological time. We focus here on the so called "extended present" as a result of protentional and retentional activities (memory and anticipation). Memory, as retention, is treated in some physical theories (relaxation phenomena, which will inspire o...

Projects

Projects (4)
Project
An approach to theoretical biology is outlined, where first principles play a key organizing role. Applications are diverse, from physiology to evolution. Applications to a theory of cancer are underlined.
Project
Biologists routinely speak of living systems as if they were information-processing systems. Many think this is what distinguishes life from non-life. Information has two very different aspects: structural (mere covariation), and semantic (pertaining to function, meaning, and intentionality). I will here explore how semantic information can emerge from structural information.