By Gregory M. Mikkelson School of Environment and Department of Philosophy McGill University, 3534 University Street Montréal, QC H3A 2A7 CANADA firstname.lastname@example.org Keynote contribution to the session "Integrating Ecological and Social Scales" Electronic conference "Landscape Scale Biodiversity Assessment" European Platform for Biodiversity, www.bioplatform.info Posted March 9th, 2005..
In this paper, I offer a new defense of scientific realism, tailored for the Akaikean paradigm of statistical hypothesis testing. After proposing definitions of verisimilitude and predictive success, I use computer simulations to show how the latter depends on the former, even in the kind of case featured in a recent argument for instrumentalism. *Received May 2005; revised July 2006. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy and School of Environment, McGill University, 855 Sherbrooke Street West, Montréal, (...) QC H3A 2T7, Canada; e‐mail: email@example.com . (shrink)
Ecologists typically invoke "law-like" generalizations, ranging over "structural" and/or "functional" kinds, in order to explain generalizations about "historical" kinds (such as biological taxa)rather than vice versa. This practice is justified, since structural and functional kinds tend to correlate better with important ecological phenomena than do historical kinds. I support these contentions with three recent case studies. In one sense, therefore, ecology is, and should be, more nomothetic, or law-oriented, than idiographic, or historically oriented. This conclusion challenges several recent philosophical claims (...) about the nature of ecological science. (shrink)
In this paper, I offer a new defense of scientific realism, tailored for the Akaikean paradigm of statistical hypothesis testing. After proposing definitions of verisimilitude and predictive success, I use computer simulations to show how the latter depends on the former, even in the kind of case featured in a recent argument for instrumentalism.
Richness theory offers an alternative to the paradigms that have dominated the short history of environmental ethics as a self-conscious field. This alternative theoretical paradigm defines intrinsic value as “richness”—a synonym for “organic unity” or “unity in diversity.” Richness theory can handily reconcile two kinds of ideas that seem to be in tension with each other:that (1) an individual human being has a greater worth than an individual organism of just about any other species; and (2) yet the world would (...) be a better place with substantially fewer humans and/or less consumption per capita, thus leaving more resources for other species.The mutual compatibility of such ideas within the framework of richness theory can be demonstrated both verbally and through a simplified mathematical model. (shrink)
When data are limited, simple models of complex ecological systems tend to wind up closer to the truth than more complex models of the same systems. This greater proximity to the truth, or verisimilitude, leads to greater predictive success. When more data are available, the advantage of simplicity decreases, and more complex models may gain the upper hand. In ecology, holistic models are usually simpler than reductionistic models. Thus, when data are limited, holistic models have an advantage over reductionistic models, (...) with respect to verisimilitude and predictive success. I illustrate these points with models designed to explain and predict the numbers of species on islands. (shrink)
Lewis' argument against the Limit Assumption and Pollock's Generalized Consequence Principle together suggest that "minimal-change" theories of counterfactuals are wrong. The "small-change" theories presented by Nute do not say enough. While these theories rely on closeness between possible worlds, I base an alternative on the ceteris paribus concept. My theory solves a problem that the above cannot, and is more relevant to the philosophy of science. Ceteris paribus conditions should normally include the causes, but exclude the effects, of the negated (...) antecedent. An example from community ecology, the debate over null models in island-biogeographical studies of competition, supports these arguments. (shrink)