Carlos Mariscal, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Carlos Mariscal


Before joining the department of philosophy at the University of Nevada, Reno, Professor Carlos A. Mariscal was a Herzberg Postdoctoral Fellow working with W. Ford Doolittle in the departments of biochemistry & molecular biology and philosophy in Dalhousie University. He received his Ph.D. from Duke University. Carlos works in areas related to the evolution, origin, and distribution of life in the universe, a field known as astrobiology. His recent work has centered around convergence, the direction of evolution, the nature of the last universal common ancestor, the nature of extreme organisms, the origin and meaning of ‘Life,' and ethical issues regarding new biotechnologies. Carlos is currently concerned with the extent to which we can expect biological explanations to cover distinct or as-yet-unknown systems.

Research interests

  • Philosophy of Astrobiology
  • History & Philosophy of Biology
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Science, Technology & Society (STS)
  • Philosophy of Cognitive Science
  • Applied Ethics (esp. Biotechnology)

Courses taught

Typically courses in the intersection of science (especially the life sciences) and philosophy.

  • Phil 224: Introduction to Philosophy of Science
  • Phil 316: Survey of 20th-Century Philosophy
  • Phil 434: Philosophy of Cognitive Science
  • Phil 438: Problems in the History and Philosophy of Science
  • Phil 440: Theory of Knowledge
  • Hist/Phil 480: Science, Technology, and Society

Selected publications

Academic books

  • Smith K, Mariscal C (eds.): Social and Conceptual Issues in Astrobiology, 2020, Oxford University Press

Academic articles

  • Mariscal C: “Introduction to Philosophy of Science,” 2022 in Mind, Cognition and Neuroscience: B Young & C Dicey Jennings (eds.). Routledge.
  • Mariscal, C: "Life," Winter 2021 Edition, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =
  • Mariscal C, Barahona A, Aubert-Kato N, Aydinoglu AU, Bartlett S, Cárdenas ML, Chandru K, Cleland C, Cocanougher BT, Comfort N, Cornish-Bowden A, Deacon T, Froese T, Giovannelli D, Hernlund J, Hut P, Kimura J, Maurel M-C, Merino N, Moreno A, Nakagawa M, Pereto J, Virgo N, Witkowski O, Cleaves II HJ: “Hidden Concepts in the History and Philosophy of Origins of Life Studies: A Workshop Report,” 2019, Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres 49(3), 111-145.
  • Mariscal C, Doolittle WF: “Life and Life Only: A Radical Alternative to Life Definitionism,” 2018, Synthese. doi: 10.1007/s11229-018-1852-2
  • Mariscal C, Fleming L: “Why We Should Care About Universal Biology,” 2017, Biological Theory. doi: 10.1007/s13752-017-0280-8
  • Mariscal C, Petropanagos A: “CRISPR as a Driving Force: The Model T of Biotechnology,” 2016, Monash Bioethics Review 34(2), 101-116. doi: 10.1007/s40592-016-0062-2
  • Powell R, Mariscal C: “Convergent Evolution as Natural Experiment: The Tape of Life Reconsidered, 2015, Journal of the Royal Society Interface 5(6): 20150040. doi: 10.1098/rsfs.2015.0040


  • Ph.D., Philosophy, Duke University, 2014
  • M.A., Philosophy, Duke University, 2012
  • B.A., Journalism & Mass Communications, New Mexico State University, 2006