Allometries and scaling laws interpreted as laws: a reply to Elgin

Biology and Philosophy 26 (1):99-111 (2011)
I analyze here biological regression equations known in the literature as allometries and scaling laws. My focus is on the alleged lawlike status of these equations. In particular I argue against recent views that regard allometries and scaling laws as representing universal, non-continent, and/or strict biological laws. Although allometries and scaling laws appear to be generalizations applying to many taxa, they are neither universal nor exceptionless. In fact there appear to be exceptions to all of them. Nor are the constants in allometries and scaling laws truly constant, stable, or universal in character, but vary in value across different taxa and background conditions. Moreover, these equations represent evolutionary, strongly contingent generalizations, which threatens their lawlike status. Lastly, allometries and scaling laws do not offer stable probabilities to which they hold in different backgrounds. I further suggest that many allometries and scaling laws function to elucidate explananda rather than explanantia or covering laws
Keywords Philosophy   Evolutionary Biology   Philosophy of Biology
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DOI 10.1007/s10539-010-9203-9
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James Woodward (2000). Explanation and Invariance in the Special Sciences. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 51 (2):197-254.

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