Puzzles for ZFEL, McShea and Brandon's zero force evolutionary law

Martin Barrett, Hayley Clatterbuck, Michael Goldsby, Casey Helgeson, Brian McLoone, Trevor Pearce, Elliott Sober, Reuben Stern, Naftali Weinberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations


In their 2010 book, Biology's First Law, D. McShea and R. Brandon present a principle that they call "ZFEL," the zero force evolutionary law. ZFEL says (roughly) that when there are no evolutionary forces acting on a population, the population's complexity (i. e., how diverse its member organisms are) will increase. Here we develop criticisms of ZFEL and describe a different law of evolution; it says that diversity and complexity do not change when there are no evolutionary causes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)723-735
Number of pages13
JournalBiology and Philosophy
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2012


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

Cite this

Barrett, M., Clatterbuck, H., Goldsby, M., Helgeson, C., McLoone, B., Pearce, T., ... Weinberger, N. (2012). Puzzles for ZFEL, McShea and Brandon's zero force evolutionary law. Biology and Philosophy, 27(5), 723-735. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10539-012-9321-7