What Would Natural Laws in the Life Sciences Be?

  • Marc Lange
Part of the History, Philosophy and Theory of the Life Sciences book series (HPTL, volume 1)


Much research in the life sciences arrives at generalizations concerning the biological properties characteristic of particular species, or generalizations concerning groups of species or even generalizations concerning broader biological classes. How should we understand these generalizations? In this chapter, I will examine whether the concept of a law of nature can help us to understand them. I will examine several controversies about the applicability of the concept of a natural law to the life sciences, including whether biological generalizations have exceptions, are riddled with ceteris-paribus provisos, or are too historically contingent to qualify as distinctively biological laws. I will not aim to argue that there are in fact biological laws, but rather to understand what would make it the case that there are (or are not). Implications for science education are discussed.


Island Biogeography Logical Necessity Homeostatic Property Cluster Continuity Principle Cartilaginous Ring 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentUniversity of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA

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