Home » Thesis » John beatty evolutionary contingency thesis proposal

John beatty evolutionary contingency thesis proposal

John beatty evolutionary contingency thesis proposal Jay Gould    

First Online: 27 September 2009 Received: 02 April 2009 Accepted: 02 September 2009

Cite this article as: Morgan, G.J. Biol Philos (2010) 25: 379. doi:10.1007/s10539-009-9181-y

  • 4 Citations


In this paper, I argue against John Beatty’s position in his paper “The Evolutionary Contingency Thesis” by counterexample. Beatty argues that there are no distinctly biological laws because the outcomes of the evolutionary processes are contingent. I argue that the heart of the Caspar–Klug theory of virus structure—that spherical virus capsids consist of 60T subunits (where T = k 2 + hk + h 2 and h and k are integers)—is a distinctly biological law even if the existence of spherical viruses is evolutionarily contingent.


Scientific laws Laws of biology Laws of design Virology Contingency Degrees of necessity Adaptationism Biological design Stephen Jay Gould


Beatty J (1995) The evolutionary contingency thesis. In: Wolters G, Lennox JG (eds) Concepts, theories, and rationality in the biological sciences. University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, pp 45–81

Brandon R (1997) Does biology have laws? The experimental evidence. Philos Sci 64(4):S444–S457 CrossRef

Carnap R (1966) Philosophical foundations of physics. Basic Books, New York

Cartwright N (1983) How the laws of physics lie. Oxford University Press, New York CrossRef

Casjens S (1997) Principles of viron structure, function, and assembly. In: Chiu W, Burnet RM, Garcia RL (eds) Structural biology of viruses. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 3–37

Caspar DLD, Klug A (1962) Physical principles in the construction of regular viruses. Cold Spring Symp Quant Biol XXVII:1–24

John beatty evolutionary contingency thesis proposal 5Å resolution

Crick FHC, Watson JD (1956) Structure of small viruses. Nature 177:473–475 CrossRef

Crick FHC, Watson JD (1957) Virus structure: general principles. In: Wolstenholme GEW, Miller E (eds) Ciba foundation symposium on the nature of viruses. Little Brown, Boston, pp 5–13

Earman J, Roberts J (2005) Contact with the nomic: a challenge for deniers of Humean supervenience about laws of nature part I: Humean supervenience. Philos Phenomenol Res 71:253–286 CrossRef

Einstein A (1923) Sidelights on relativity. Dutton, New York

Giere R (1999) Science without laws. University of Chicago Press, Chicago

Goodsell DS, Olson AJ (2000) Structural symmetry and protein function. Annu Rev Biophys Biomol Struct 29:105–153 CrossRef

Goodwin B (1994) How the leopard changed its spots. Simon and Schuster, New York

Gould SJ (1989) Wonderful life: Burgess Shale and the nature of history. Norton, New York

Gould SJ (2002) The structure of evolutionary theory. Harvard University Press, Cambridge

Gould SJ, Lewontin R (1979) The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian paradigm: a critique of the adaptationist programme. Proc R Soc Lond B 205:581–598 CrossRef

Johnson JE, Speir JA (1997) Quasi-equivalent viruses: a paradigm for protein assemblies. J Mol Biol 269:665–675 CrossRef

Kauffman SA (1993) Origins of order: self-organization and selection in evolution. Oxford University Press, Oxford

Kitcher P (1984) 1953 and all that: a tale of two sciences. Philos Rev 93:335–373 CrossRef

Lewis D (1973) Counterfactuals. Harvard University Press, Cambridge

Liddington RC, Yan Y, Zhao HC, Sahli R, Benjamin TL, Harrison SC (1991) Structure of simian virus 40 at 3.8 Å resolution. Nature 354:278–284 CrossRef

Lloyd EA (1988) The structure and confirmation of evolutionary theory. Greenwood Press, New York

Mill JS (1911) A system of logic: ratiocinative and inductive. Longmans, Green, London

Mitchell SD (2003) Biological complexity and integrative pluralism. Cambridge University Press, New York

Morgan GJ (2003) Historical review: viruses, crystals and geodesic domes. Trends Biochem Sci 28(2):86–91 CrossRef

Morgan GJ (2004) Early theories of virus structure. In: Cheng H, Hammar L (eds) Conformational proteomics of macromolecular architectures. World Scientific, Singapore, pp 3–40 CrossRef

Morgan GJ (2006) Virus design, 1955–1962: science meets art. Phytopathology 96:1287–1291 CrossRef

Olson AJ, Bricogne G, Harrison SC (1983) Structure of tomato bushy stunt virus IV. The virus particle at 2.9 Å resolution. J Mol Biol 171(1):61–93 CrossRef

Ramsey FP (1928) Universals of law and fact. In Mellor DH (ed) Foundations: essays in philosophy, logic, mathematics and economics. RKP, London (Reprinted in 1978)

Rayment I, Baker TS, Caspar DLD, Murakami WT (1982) Polyoma virus capsid structure at 22.5Å resolution. Nature 295:110–115 CrossRef

Rosenberg (2006) Darwinian reductionism: or how to stop worrying and love molecular biology. Chicago University Press, Chicago

Rosenberg A, Kaplan DM (2005) How to reconcile physicalism and antireductionism about biology. Philos Sci 72:53–68 CrossRef

Sober E (1997) Two outbreaks of lawlessness in recent philosophy of biology. Philos Sci 64:S458–S467 CrossRef

Strevens M (2008) Physically contingent laws counterfactual support. Philos Impr 8(8):1–20

Thompson DW (1917) On growth and form. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

Thompson P (1989) The structure of biological theories. SUNY Press, Albany

Twarock R (2004) A tiling approach to virus capsid assembly explaining a structural puzzle in virology. J Theor Biol 226:477–482 CrossRef

Van Fraassen B (1989) Laws and symmetry. Clarendon Press, Oxford CrossRef

Zandi R, Reguera D, Bruinsma RF, Gelbart WM, Rudnick J (2004) Origin of icosahedral symmetry in viruses. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 101(44):15556–15560 CrossRef


Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

Share this:
custom writing low cost
Order custom writing
Order custom writing
Important Notice!