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

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


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

Download options


    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 72,856

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library


Added to PP

73 (#161,532)

6 months
2 (#257,750)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Alan Love
University of Minnesota

Similar books and articles

Theory Structure and Theory Change in Contemporary Molecular Biology.Sylvia Culp & Philip Kitcher - 1989 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 40 (4):459-483.
The Use and Abuse of Sir Karl Popper.David L. Hull - 1999 - Biology and Philosophy 14 (4):481-504.
Karl Popper's Philosophy of Biology.Michael Ruse - 1977 - Philosophy of Science 44 (4):638-661.
The Practice of Theory, the Theory of Practice∗.G. B. Madison - 1991 - Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society 5 (2):179-202.
Pragmatics in Science and Theory in Common Sense.Kathleen V. Wilkes - 1984 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 27 (December):339-61.
Similarities and Differences Between Evolutionary Theory and the Theories of Physics.Mary B. Williams - 1980 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1980:385 - 396.