What is the Status of the Hardy-Weinberg Law within Population Genetics?

Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook 17:159-172 (2014)
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The aim of this paper is to further develop van Fraassen’s diagnosis, expanding a previous analysis of the fundamental law of classical genetics and the status of the so-called ‘Mendel’s laws’.6 According to this diagnosis the Hardy-Weinberg law: 1) cannot be considered as axiom (or fundamental law) for classical population genetics, since it is a law that describes an equilibrium that 2) holds only under certain special conditions, and 3) only determines a subclass of models, 4) whose generalized form (and fundamental law) being shading off into logical vacuity, and 5) more complex variants of the fundamental law (and of the Hardy-Weinberg law) can be “deduced” for more realistic assumptions. In order to achieve this, I will use notions of the structuralist view of theories, a version that is related to but different from that of van Fraassen’s. These are the notions of fundamental law, specialization, and special law. Having as a background a structuralist reconstruction of classical population genetics, I will show why the Hardy-Weinberg law should not be in fact considered the fundamental law of such a theory, but a special law (and not even a “terminal” specialization, i.e. a “non-terminal” specialization).



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Pablo Lorenzano
Universidad Nacional de Quilmes

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