Sober and Elgin on laws of biology: A critique [Book Review]

Biology and Philosophy 25 (2):249-256 (2010)
Abstract
In this short discussion note, I discuss whether any of the generalizations made in biology should be construed as laws. Specifically, I examine a strategy offered by Elliot Sober ( 1997 ) and supported by Mehmet Elgin ( 2006 ) to reformulate certain biological generalizations so as to eliminate their contingency, thereby allowing them to count as laws. I argue that this strategy entails a conception of laws that is unacceptable on two counts: (1) Sober and Elgin’s approach allows the possibility of formulating laws describing any biological phenomenon whatsoever; and (2) on Sober and Elgin’s view, any interesting contrast between so-called laws and obviously accidental generalizations collapses. I conclude by offering suggestions to refine their view in order to avoid these theoretical problems.
Keywords Laws  Biology  Contingency  Modal Force
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