In this article, I propose a new way of thinking about natural necessity and a new way of thinking about biological laws. I suggest that much of the lack of progress in making a positive case for distinctively biological laws is that we’ve been looking for necessity in the wrong place. The trend has been to look for exceptionlessness at the level of the outcomes of biological processes and to build one’s claims about necessity off of that. However, as Beatty (1995) observed, even when we are lucky enough to find a biological ‘rule’ of some sort, that rule is apt to be a victim of ‘the rule-breaking capabilities of evolutionary change’. If indeed no distinctively biological generalization—even an exceptionless one—is safe, we need to locate necessity elsewhere. A good place to start is, I think, precisely the point at which Beatty sees the possibility of lawhood as breaking down—namely, at the level of chances.

  • 1The ‘Necessity’ Objection to Biological Laws

  • 2Necessary Chances

    •   2.1Necessary chances: random drift

    •   2.2Necessary chances: fitness

  • 3But is it Biological?

  • 4Conclusion

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