Regular Article

Acta Biotheoretica

, Volume 58, Issue 1, pp 65-79

First online:

Multiple Explanations in Darwinian Evolutionary Theory

  • Walter J. BockAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Columbia University Email author 

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Variational evolutionary theory as advocated by Darwin is not a single theory, but a bundle of related but independent theories, namely: (a) variational evolution; (b) gradualism rather than large leaps; (c) processes of phyletic evolution and of speciation; (d) causes for the formation of varying individuals in populations and for the action of selective agents; and (e) all organisms evolved from a common ancestor. The first four are nomological-deductive explanations and the fifth is historical-narrative. Therefore evolutionary theory must be divided into nomological and historical theories which are both testable against objective empirical observations. To be scientific, historical evolutionary theories must be based on well corroborated nomological theories, both evolutionary and functional. Nomological and general historical evolutionary theories are well tested and must be considered as strongly corroborated scientific theories. Opponents of evolutionary theory are concerned only with historical evolutionary theories, having little interest in nomological theory. Yet given a well corroborated nomological evolutionary theory, historical evolutionary theories follow automatically. If understood correctly, both forms of evolutionary theories stand on their own as corroborated scientific theories and should not be labeled as facts.


 Evolution Explanations Nomological theory Historical theory