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

Biology and Philosophy 26 (1):99-111 (2011)
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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



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Jani Raerinne
University of Helsinki

Citations of this work

The Ontic Account of Scientific Explanation.Carl F. Craver - 2014 - In Marie I. Kaiser, Oliver R. Scholz, Daniel Plenge & Andreas Hüttemann (eds.), Explanation in the Special Sciences: The Case of Biology and History. Springer Verlag. pp. 27-52.
Causal and Mechanistic Explanations in Ecology.Jani Raerinne - 2010 - Acta Biotheoretica 59 (3):251-271.

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