The meta-theoretical status of ZFEL
Keywords:zero-force evolutionary law, complexity, diversity, probability theory, principle of common cause
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.
Baravalle, L., Vecchi, D. (por aparecer). Drift as a Force of Evolution: A Manipulationist Account. Life and Evolution.
Barrett, M., Clatterbuck, H, Goldsby, N., Helgeson, C., McLoone, B., Pearce, T., Sober, E., Stern, R., Weinberger, N. (2012). Puzzles for ZFEL, McShea and Brandon’s Zero Force Evolutionary Law. Biology and Philosophy, 27(5): 723-35.
Beatty, J. (1984). Chance and Natural Selection. Philosophy of Science, 51(2): 183-211. Retrieved from: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0031-8248%28198406%2951%3A2%3C183%3ACANS%3E2.0.CO%3B2-C
Brandon, R. N. (2006). The Principle of Drift: Biology’s First Law. The Journal of Philosophy, 103(7): 319-35.
Brandon, R. N., McShea, D. W. (2012). Four Solutions for Four Puzzles. Biology and Philosophy, 27(5): 737-44.
Darwin, C. R. (1859). On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. London: John Murray.
Darwin, C. R. (1958). The Autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882. With the Original Omissions Restored. Edited and with Appendix and Notes by His Grand-Daughter Nora Barlow. Edited by Nora Barlow. New York: W.W. Norton.
Fraassen, B. C. V. (1980). The Scientific Image. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Lewens, T. (2010). The Natures of Selection. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 61(2): 313-33. doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/bjps/axp041.
Luque, V. J. (2016). The Principle of Stasis: Why Drift Is Not a Zero-Cause Law. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 57: 71-79. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/J.SHPSC.2016.04.001
Matthen, M., Ariew, A. (2002). Two Ways of Thinking about Fitness and Natural Selection. Journal of Philosophy, 99(2): 55-83.
McShea, D. W., Brandon, R. N. (2010). Biology’s First Law. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
McShea, D. W., Wang, S. C., Brandon, R. N. (2019). A Quantitative Formulation of Biology’s First Law. Evolution. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/evo.13735
Pence, C. H. (2017). Is Genetic Drift a Force? Synthese, 194(6): 1967-88.
Reichenbach, H. (1956). The Direction of Time. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Reisman, K., Forber, P. (2005). Manipulation and the Causes of Evolution. Philosophy of Science, 72(5): 1113-23. doi: https://doi.org/10.1086/508120
Richards, R. J. (2012). Darwin’s Principles of Divergence and Natural Selection: Why Fodor Was Almost Right. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 43(1): 256–68.
Ridley, M. (2004). Evolution - Third Edition. Malden: Blackwell.
Roffé, A. J. (2017). Genetic Drift as a Directional Factor: Biasing Effects and a Priori Predictions. Biology & Philosophy, 32(4): 535-58. doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10539-017-9575-1
Sober, E. (1984). The Nature of Selection. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Sober, E. (2001). Venetian Sea Levels, British Bread Prices, and the Principle of the Common Cause. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 52(2): 331-46.
Stephens, C. (2004). Selection, Drift, and the ‘Forces’ of Evolution. Philosophy of Science, 71: 550-570.
Suppes, P. (1970). A Probabilistic Theory of Causality. Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Company.
Walsh, D., Lewins, T., Ariew, A. (2002). The Trials of Life: Natural Selection and Random Drift. Philosophy of Science, 69(3): 429-46. doi: https://doi.org/10.1086/342454
How to Cite
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication, with the work after publication simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International) that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).