Theory is as Theory Does: Scientific Practice and Theory Structure in Biology

Biological Theory 7 (4):325-337, 430 (2013)

Abstract

Using the context of controversies surrounding evolutionary developmental biology (EvoDevo) and the possibility of an Extended Evolutionary Synthesis, I provide an account of theory structure as idealized theory presentations that are always incomplete (partial) and shaped by their conceptual content (material rather than formal organization). These two characteristics are salient because the goals that organize and regulate scientific practice, including the activity of using a theory, are heterogeneous. This means that the same theory can be structured differently, in part because theory presentations (as idealizations) intentionally depart from different features known to be present in a theory. Since there are diverse and potentially incompatible theory structures derived from heterogeneous goals found in scientific practices, a question arises about the absence of a unifying theory structure in the background. The notion of a “theory façade” offers a fruitful perspective on this potentially unsettling result

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2013-10-27

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Alan Love
University of Minnesota

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