David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Biology and Philosophy 24 (4):521-529 (2009)
Community ecology entered the 1970s with the belief that niche theory would supply a general theory of community structure. The lack of wide-spread empirical support for niche theory led to a focus on models specific to classes of communities such as lakes, intertidal communities, and forests. Today, the needs of conservation biology for metrics of “ecological health” that can be applied across types of communities prompts a renewed interest in the possibility of general theory for community ecology. Disputes about the existence of general patterns in community structure trace at least to the 1920s and continue today almost unchanged in concept, although now expressed through mathematical modeling. Yet, a new framework emerged in the 1980s from findings that community composition and structure depend as much on the processes that bring species to the boundaries of a community as by processes internal to a community, such as species interactions and co-evolution. This perspective, termed “supply-side ecology”, argued that community ecology was to be viewed as an “organic earth science” more than as a biological science. The absence of a general theory of the earth would then imply a corresponding absence of any general theory for the communities on the earth, and imply that the logical structure of theoretical community ecology would consist of an atlas of models special to place and geologic time. Nonetheless, a general theory of community ecology is possible similar in form to the general theory for evolution if the processes that bring species to the boundary of a community are analogized to mutation, and the processes that act on the species that arrive at a community are analogized to selection. All communities then share some version of this common narrative, permitting general theorems to be developed pertaining to all ecological communities. Still, the desirability of a general theory of community ecology is debatable because the existence of a general theory suppresses diversity of thought even as it allows generalizations to be derived. The pros and cons of a general theory need further discussion.
|Keywords||Philosophy Evolutionary Biology Philosophy of Biology|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
Stephen R. Carpenter, James F. Kitchell & James R. Hodgson (1985). Cascading Trophic Interactions and Lake Productivity. BioScience 35 (10):634-639.
James Woodward (2003). Making Things Happen: A Theory of Causal Explanation. Oxford University Press.
James Woodward (2002). There is No Such Thing as a Ceteris Paribus Law. Erkenntnis 57 (3):303Ð328.
Jim Woodward (2001). Law and Explanation in Biology: Invariance is the Kind of Stability That Matters. Philosophy of Science 68 (1):1-20.
Citations of this work BETA
Kristin Shrader-Frechette (2011). Randomization and Rules for Causal Inferences in Biology: When the Biological Emperor (Significance Testing) Has No Clothes. Biological Theory 6 (2):154-161.
Similar books and articles
Julio A. Camargo (2008). Revisiting the Relation Between Species Diversity and Information Theory. Acta Biotheoretica 56 (4):275-283.
Christopher H. Eliot (2011). Competition Theory and Channeling Explanation. Philosophy and Theory in Biology 3 (20130604):1-16.
Arran Gare (2010). Toward an Ecological Civilization. Process Studies 39 (1):5-38.
C. Ricotta & G. C. Avena (2002). On the Information-Theoretical Meaning of Hill's Parametric Evenness. Acta Biotheoretica 50 (1):63-71.
E. D. McCoy & Kristin Shrader-Frechette (1992). Community Ecology, Scale, and the Instability of the Stability Concept. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1992:184 - 199.
Paul Wennekes, James Rosindell & Rampal Etienne (2012). The Neutral—Niche Debate: A Philosophical Perspective. Acta Biotheoretica 60 (3):257-271.
Added to index2009-05-02
Total downloads44 ( #45,204 of 1,410,432 )
Recent downloads (6 months)2 ( #107,949 of 1,410,432 )
How can I increase my downloads?