From Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences:
Abstract There is widespread agreement among contemporary philosophers of biology and philosophically-minded biologists that Darwin’s insights about the intrusion of chance processes into biological regularities undermines the possibility of there being biological laws. Darwin made references to “designed laws.” He also freely described some laws as having exceptions. This paper provides a philosophical analysis of the notion of scientific laws that was dominant in Darwin’s time, and in all probability the one which he inherited. The analysis of laws is then used to show how it could have been natural for Darwin to believe in designed laws that had exceptions, and to highlight the continuity between the metaphysics of pre-Darwinian, Darwinian, and contemporary biological science. One important result is the removal of one motivation for the anti-laws sentiment in philosophy and biology.