"Laws of forms"?

@swamidass has asked “anonymous/non-academic participants [to] step out of this conversation”, so I’m taking the liberty of creating this side-conversation to address an issue raised on the original thread, that of @Rope’s claim that:

A claim that he cites, in part, to Sean Carroll’s article: Chance and necessity: the evolution of
morphological complexity and diversity

Given that neither Kojonen nor I are biologists, I’d like to address three questions to the biologists on this forum:

  1. Are you and/or your colleague increasingly talking of “laws of form”? @Mercer, at least seems to be unaware of this.

  2. Do you think Carroll’s article supports this claim?

  3. Does this indeed mean that “the role of natural selection and mutation in explaining biological form seems comparatively less all-encompassing”? (I must admit that I find this statement rather puzzling, as I had previously thought that Neutral Theory had been around for several decades, meaning that NS+M had been known to be considerably less than “all-encompassing” for some time.)


I can find no evidence for (1), only a few articles by Michael Denton, and even they say that “laws of form” was a 19th century idea.

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Not a biologist, but I have worked in molecular and cell biology related medical research, and I’m not aware that there has been any increase in the use of concepts like “laws of form” anywhere in biology. Nor am I aware that the idea is particularly widespread at all. I honestly can’t recall having ever come across it anywhere but in discussions with ID/creationists.

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Not a biologist, of course, but I will point out that the term “laws of form” does occur in Stephen Meyer’s book Darwin’s Doubt when Meyer is discussing Stuart Kauffman. Also, Meyer repeatedly talks in that book about the mystery of the “origin of form” as though this reified “form” is an item requiring a special explanation. My guess is that Kojonen has drunk rather deeply of ID literature and is showing the infirmities which result therefrom.


I’m not sure about this, but it seems to me the concept of “laws of forms” is related to structuralism, regarding which a discussion of some of its recent forms can be found below:

Sandwalk: What is “structuralism”?


I don’t know what these “laws of form” are supposed to be, but I’m vaguely reminded of D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson’s classic, On Growth and Form. Don’t know where we go from there.

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Hi all, thanks for your responses to my first question, does anybody have a response to my second or third?

  1. No.

  2. No.

  3. Most definitely no.


3x no.

No, but I have another response to your first :smile:

Michael Denton has been claiming that biologists are revisiting “laws of form” (e.g. here), although he cites not biologists but philosophers. These might be @Rope’s sources for this claim.


What he’s likely referring to is the fact that some of the biologists affiliated with the DI have started using “laws of forms” as one of their arguments in addition to their other failed arguments. Although that would primarily be Denton, and he isn’t a biologist. So I dunno.

He is a biologist. Or at least was.

My mistake. I thought he was just an MD. Well, there you go. He told the truth. Once Denton started talking about the “law of forms”, there was one more doing so than before he started doing this. So the number has, indeed, been growing.

This discussion would be greatly advanced if someone could explain what these “laws of form” supposedly are, either in Denton’s opinion or in anyone else’s.

Fostering productive scientific discussion is not the goal of people like Michael Denton, as far as I can tell.

That said, I am presuming it is at least similar to what is discussed in that Larry Moran article I linked above. Denton is cited there.