The meta-theoretical status of ZFEL

Ariel Jonathan Roffé, Santiago Ginnobili


In a recent book, McShea and Brandon argue that the observed diversity and complexity of life are explainable by a principle they call the “zero-force evolutionary law” or “ZFEL”. Although this principle would be implicit in many explanations given by biologists, it would have never been made explicit. Assuming that this idea is interesting, and that the authors are right, we will discuss the metatheoretical way in which they present said principle, as being a part of probability theory. This allows the authors to claim that probability theory provides the reductive basis for all evolutionary biology (given that they consider other principles, such as the principle of natural selection, as part of probability theory as well). We will defend, in accordance with them, that ZFEL is not a solely biological principle, but not because it is a part of probability theory, but rather because it is a specific version of the principle of common cause.


zero-force evolutionary law; complexity; diversity; probability theory; principle of common cause


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