Well-known epistemologies of science have implications for how best to understand knowledge transfer (KT). Yet, to date, no serious attempt has been made to explicate these particular implications. This paper infers views about KT from two popular epistemologies; what we characterize as incommensurabilitist views (after Devitt, 2001; Bird, 2002, 2008; Sankey and Hoyningen-Huene 2013) and voluntarist views (after Van Fraassen, 1984; Dupré, 2001; Chakravartty, 2015). We argue views of the former sort define the methodological, ontological, and social conditions under which (...) research operates within ‘different worlds’ (to use Kuhn's expression), and entail that genuine KTs under those conditions should be difficult or even impossible. By contrast, more liberal voluntarist views recognize epistemological processes that allow for transfers across different sciences even under such conditions. After outlining these antithetical positions, we identify two kinds of KTs present in well-known episodes in the history of ecology—specifically, successful model transfers from chemical kinetics and thermodynamics into areas of ecological research—which reveal significant limitations of incommensurabilitist views. We conclude by discussing how the selected examples support a pluralistic voluntarism regarding KT. (shrink)
We uncover a largely unnoticed and unaddressed problem in conservation research: arguments built within studies are sometimes defective in more fundamental and specific ways than appreciated, because they misrelate values and empirical matters. We call this the unraveled rope problem because just as strands of rope must be properly and intricately wound with each other so the rope supports its load, empirical aspects and value aspects of an argument must be related intricately and properly if the argument is to objectively (...) support its conclusion. By characterizing this problem with precision, our study differs from but complements existing studies of value issues in conservation science, in two ways. First, it focuses on key relationships between empirical issues and value issues, relations that have sometimes been obscured by focusing on these issues more independently of each other. Second, it focuses on these relationships within arguments and deploys a method of argument analysis and evaluation honed in other fields but under-utilized in conservation science. By combining our study's novel features, we detail six families of argument defect that exemplify the unraveled rope problem within existing literature. These defects sometimes manifest within basic research stages, rather than just in more applied downstream stages where roles for values are already obvious to many. As scientific reasoning and communication become increasingly important for addressing society's greatest environmental challenges, overcoming the unraveled rope problem will be essential to the success and integrity of conservation research. Therefore, we also outline potential solutions, preventative measures, and useful further work for conservation researchers. (shrink)
Many commentators have analyzed the Papal Encyclical on the care of the environment entitled “Laudato Si’” from various angles but relatively few have written on the philosophical presuppositions that inform the overall stance of the encyclical. It is becoming increasingly evident that, to appreciate the full impact of this work, we need to uncover its ontological and epistemological commitments. This paper makes a contribution in this neglected area by focusing on the nature of life. Two main points are explored: the (...) way all lifeforms depend on other lifeforms, implying that the biosphere often functions like one single unit of life, and the issue of the intrinsic value of each living thing. By situating the encyclical’s arguments within the history of ideas on the nature of life, the environment, and ecology, this research helps to better appreciate the originality of this document. (shrink)
A number of ecologists have put forward various proposals that ecology has laws, yet they have not explicated what role laws play in ecological explanations. Marcel Weber (1999), Lev Ginzburg and Mark Colyvan (2004) correct this deficiency and also make their case for laws of ecology: the principle of competitive exclusion and Malthus's law of exponential growth respectively. According to Weber, the principle of competitive exclusion explains phenomena (1) by direct application, or (2) by describing a default state from which (...) observed phenomena deviate and mechanisms are called to account for the discrepancy. Independently of Weber, Ginzburg and Colyvan articulate a role similar to (2) for Malthus's law. I argue that Weber's proposition of explanation by direct application is not consistent with Gause's account of ’bottle experiments’ that he uses to support it and does not do justice to ecologists' explanatory practice. To address these problems, I articulate an alternative account of explanation by direct application—the covering-law model—based on a proposal by Elgin and Sober (2002) and show that even in this proposal mechanisms play a key explanatory role. I also demonstrate how the covering-law model accounts for how Malthus's law can explain by direct application and for its role of descriptor of a default state. Finally, I argue that the views on laws as components in covering-law model explanations or as descriptors of default states do not give sufficient attention to the prominent explanatory role of mechanisms and to the demanding task of identifying and describing them, and ought to be corrected. (shrink)
This article addresses the contributions of the literature on the new mechanistic philosophy of science for the scientific practice of model building in ecology. This is reflected in a one-to-one interdisciplinary collaboration between an ecologist and a philosopher of science during science-in-the-making. We argue that the identification, reconstruction and understanding of mechanisms is context-sensitive, and for this case study mechanistic modeling did not present a normative role but a heuristic one. We expect our study to provides useful epistemic tools for (...) the improvement of empirically-riven work in the debates about mechanistic explanation of ecological phenomena. (shrink)
This book was the first single-authored book that covered ecological ethics and theology. It discusses key philosophical, theological, and ecological issues for Christians and other concerned citizens.
Environmental heterogeneity is invoked as a key explanatory factor in the adaptive evolution of a surprisingly wide range of phenomena. This article aims to analyze this explanatory scheme of categorizing traits or properties as adaptations to environmental heterogeneity. First it is suggested that this scheme can be understood as a reaction to how heterogeneity adaptations were discounted or ignored in the modern synthesis. Then a positive account is proposed, distinguishing between two broad categories of adaptation to environmental heterogeneity: properties selected (...) for by well-defined patterns of environmental heterogeneity, and properties that help organisms exploit novel patterns of environmental heterogeneity. (shrink)
As a discipline distinct from ecology, conservation biology emerged in the 1980s as a rigorous science focused on protecting biodiversity. Two algorithmic breakthroughs in information processing made this possible: place-prioritization algorithms and geographical information systems. They provided defensible, data-driven methods for designing reserves to conserve biodiversity that obviated the need for largely intuitive and highly problematic appeals to ecological theory at the time. But the scientific basis of these achievements and whether they constitute genuine scientific progress has been criticized. We (...) counter by pointing out important inaccuracies about the science and rejecting the apparent theory-first focus. More broadly, the case study reveals significant limitations of the predominant epistemic-semantic conceptions of scientific progress and the considerable merits of pragmatic, practically-oriented accounts. (shrink)
Urban animals can benefit from living in cities, but this also makes them vulnerable as they increasingly depend on the advantages of urban life. This article has two aims. First, I provide a detailed analysis of the concept of captivity and explain why it matters to nonhuman animals—because and insofar as many of them have a (non-substitutable) interest in freedom. Second, I defend a surprising implication of the account—pushing the boundaries of the concept while the boundaries of cities and human (...) activities expand. I argue for the existence of the neglected problem of pervasive captivity, of which urban wildlife is an illustration. Many urban animals are confined, controlled and dependent, therefore often captive of expanding urban areas. While I argue that captivity per se is value-neutral, I draw the ethical and policy implications of harmful pervasive captivity. (shrink)
Many phenomena in the natural world are complex, so scientists study them through simplified and idealised models. Philosophers of science have sought to explain how these models relate to the world. On most accounts, models do not represent the world directly, but through target systems. However, our knowledge of target systems is incomplete. First, what is the process by which target systems come about? Second, what types of entity are they? I argue that the basic conception of target systems, on (...) which other conceptions depend, is as parts of the world. I outline the process of target system specification and show that it is a crucial step in modelling. I also develop an account of target system evaluation, based on aptness. Paying close attention to target system specification and evaluation can help scientists minimise the frequency and extent of mistakes, when they are using models to investigate phenomena in complex real-world systems. (shrink)
The journey towards morality in nature can be seen through the million-year-old relationship of the flowering plant and honeybee social group. _Flowers and Honeybees_ brings what science has learned into a dialog with the philosophy of morality.
I examine the use of the term function in Aldo Leopold’s land ethic, invoked as (1) the healthy functioning of the land community, which is dependent on (2) the maintenance of the characteristic functions of populations that are parts of the land community. The latter can be understood as referring to interactions between species that are the products of coevolution (such as parasite-host, predator-prey) and, thus, in terms of the “selected effect” account of function. The performance of these functions under (...) certain conditions maintain what Leopold took to be the healthy functioning of a land community. (shrink)
In their book, Defending Biodiversity, Newman, Varner, and Linquist (NVL) cast doubt on whether Leopoldian defenses of biodiversity, in their current form, have been successful. I argue that there is a more accurate interpretation of Leopold that is not subject to the criticisms made by NVL, and that Leopold’s body of work as a whole, including but not limited to the essay “The Land Ethic” in A Sand County Almanac, provides quite a bit of useful guidance and perspective. I begin (...) with a brief summary of some of my own recent work on Leopold. This is intended to orient the reader who is more familiar with J. Baird Callicott’s influential interpretations of Leopold. I then discuss NVL’s Chapter 10 first followed by a discussion of their Chapter 9, responding to their critiques. I then conclude. On the revised interpretation that I have given, Leopold’s land ethic is defended by the method of reflective equilibrium, showing us that the land communities that we are interdependent with have intrinsic value, necessitating preserving their (land) health, which in turn necessitates preserving biodiversity. (shrink)
It is common for conservationists to refer to non-native species that have undesirable impacts on humans as “invasive”. We argue that the classification of any species as “invasive” constitutes wrongful discrimination. Moreover, we argue that its being wrong to categorize a species as invasive is perfectly compatible with it being morally permissible to kill animals—assuming that conservationists “kill equally”. It simply is not compatible with the double standard that conservationists tend to employ in their decisions about who lives and who (...) dies. (shrink)
Well-known epistemologies of science have implications for how best to understand knowledge transfer (KT). Yet, to date, no serious attempt has been made explicate these particular implications. This paper infers views about KT from two popular epistemologies; what we characterize as incommensurabilitist views (after Devitt 2001; Bird 2002, 2008; Sankey and Hoyningen-Huene 2013) and voluntarist views (after van Fraassen 1984; Dupré 2001; Chakravartty 2015). We argue views of the former sort define the methodological, ontological, and social conditions under which research (...) operates within ‘different worlds’ (to use Kuhn’s expression), and entail that genuine KTs under those conditions should be difficult or even impossible. By contrast, more liberal voluntarist views recognize epistemological processes that allow for transfers across different sciences even under such conditions. After outlining these antithetical positions, we identify two kinds of KTs of two kinds present in well-known episodes in the history of ecology—specifically, successful model transfers from chemical kinetics and thermodynamics into areas of ecological research—which reveal significant limitations of incommensurabilitist views. We conclude by discussing how the selected examples support a pluralistic voluntarism regarding KT. (shrink)
Perhaps no concept has been thought more important to ecological theorizing than the niche. Without it, technically sophisticated and well-regarded accounts of character displacement, ecological equivalence, limiting similarity, and others would seemingly never have been developed. The niche is also widely considered the centerpiece of the best candidate for a distinctively ecological law, the competitive exclusion principle. But the incongruous array and imprecise character of proposed definitions of the concept square poorly with its apparent scientific centrality. I argue this definitional (...) diversity and imprecision reflects a problematic conceptual indeterminacy that challenges its putative indispensability in ecology. (shrink)
In a well-cited book chapter, ecologist Jared Diamond characterizes three main types of experiment performed in community ecology: laboratory experiment, field experiment, and natural experiment. Diamond argues that each form of experiment has strengths and weaknesses, with respect to, for example, realism or the ability to follow a causal trajectory. But does Diamond’s typology exhaust the available kinds of cause-finding practices? Some social scientists have characterized something they call “causal process tracing.” Is this a fourth type of experiment or something (...) else? I examine Diamond’s typology and causal process tracing in the context of a case study concerning the dynamics of wolf and deer populations on the Kaibab Plateau in the 1920s, a case that has been used as a canonical example of a trophic cascade by ecologists but which has also been subject to controversy. I argue that ecologists have profitably deployed causal process tracing together with other types of experiment to help settle questions of causality in this case. It remains to be seen how widespread the use of causal process tracing outside of the social sciences is (or could be), but there are some potentially promising applications, particularly with respect to questions about specific causal sequences. (shrink)
Lately there has been a wave of criticism of the concept of living fossils. First, recent research has challenged the status of paradigmatic living fossil taxa, such as coelacanths, cycads, and tuataras. Critics have also complained that the living fossil concept is vague and/or ambiguous, and that it is responsible for misconceptions about evolution. This paper defends a particular phylogenetic conception of living fossils, or taxa that exhibit deep prehistoric morphological stability; contain few extant species; and make a high contribution (...) to phylogenetic diversity. The paper shows how this conception of living fossils can make sense of recent research on contested cases. The phylogenetic living fossil concept has both theoretical and practical importance: theoretical, because it picks out an important explanatory target for evolutionary theory; and practical, because it picks out taxa that we might wish to prioritize for conservation. The best way to defend the concept of living fossils is to get clearer about the reasons for defending living fossil taxa. (shrink)
We evaluate a common reasoning strategy used in community ecology and comparative psychology for selecting between competing hypotheses. This strategy labels one hypothesis as a “null” on the grounds of its simplicity and epistemically privileges it as accepted until rejected. We argue that this strategy is unjustified. The asymmetrical treatment of statistical null hypotheses is justified through the experimental and mathematical contexts in which they are used, but these contexts are missing in the case of the “pseudo-null hypotheses” found in (...) our case studies. Moreover, statistical nulls are often not epistemically privileged in practice over their alternatives because failing to reject the null is usually a negative result about the alternative, experimental hypothesis. Scientists should eschew the appeal to pseudo-nulls. It is a rhetorical strategy that glosses over a commitment to valuing simplicity over other epistemic virtues in the name of good scientific and statistical methodology. (shrink)
In his celebrated 1974 essay “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?,” Thomas Nagel stages a human-bat encounter to illustrate and support his claim that “subjective experience” is irreducible to “objective fact”: because Nagel cannot experience the world as a bat does, he will never know what it is like to be one. In Nagel’s account, heterogeneity is figured negatively—as a failure or lack of resemblance—and functions to constrain his knowledge of bats. Today, as white-nose syndrome threatens bat populations (...) across North America, might figuring heterogeneity positively, as a condition of creativity, open up new modes of receptivity and responsiveness to species extinctions? This essay turns to philosophies of becoming and to recent research in the biological sciences to explore this possibility. I suggest that attending to the heterogeneity of experience alerts us to more public dimensions of our being and may thereby work against the tendency to understand and experience ourselves as self-contained and closed off from one another and the world we share in common. This may in turn enhance our sense of entanglement with the events, bodies, and forces on the “outside” of experience, including bats and the white-nose syndrome with which they are afflicted today. Such an affirmation of heterogeneity as a condition of creativity holds the greatest promise for multispecies ethics today, I propose, when it is joined to an affirmation of incompatibilities within and between things as a real force of suffering and destruction in a heterogeneous world. (shrink)
Ecosophy or ecological wisdom – the new philosophy of contemporary life is also a philosophy of security, digital content, tolerance; it is a philosophy of survival and sustainable development of man, society and nature. Man, society as well as science currently need and will need a new philosophy – ecosophy. All together and each one in part they are based on security, first of all on human security. The interaction of philosophy with science occurs historically through three main stages. The (...) first one is characterized by the ancient belief that all the theoretical knowledge is philosophy. The second one, which has started approximately in the 15th century, suggests that the science is apparently independent from philosophy as a main focus. The third stage, that has just started, treats the scientific knowledge as complementary to the philosophical one. Both of them can successfully develop and function only with reciprocal interaction. Studying and understanding of the scientific knowledge leads to the professional development. The study of philosophy develops and strengthens the spirituality, the core of a developed personality. (shrink)
The “land community” (or “biotic community”) that features centrally in Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic has typically been equated with the concept of “ecosystem.” Moreover, some have challenged this central Leopoldean concept given the multitude of meanings of the term “ecosystem” and the changes the term has undergone since Leopold’s time (see, e.g., Shrader-Frechette 1996). Even one of Leopold’s primary defenders, J. Baird Callicott, asserts that there are difficulties in identifying the boundaries of ecosystems and suggests that we recognize that their (...) boundaries are determined by scientific questions ecologists pose (Callicott 2013). I argue that we need to rethink Leopold’s concept of land community in the following ways. First, we should recognize that Leopold’s views are not identical to those of his contemporaries (e.g., Clements, Elton), although they resemble those of some subsequent ecologists, including some of our contemporaries (e.g., O’Neill 2001, Post et al. 2007, Hastings and Gross 2012). Second, the land community concept does not map cleanly onto the concept of “ecosystem”; it also incorporates elements of the “community” concept in community ecology by emphasizing the interactions between organisms and not just the matter/energy flow of the ecosystem concept. Third, the boundary question can be illuminated by considering some of the recent literature on the nature of biological individuals (in particular, Odenbaugh 2007; Hamilton, Smith, and Haber 2009; Millstein 2009), focusing on concentrations of causal relations as determinative of the boundaries of the land community qua individual. There are challenges to be worked out, particularly when the interactions of community members do not map cleanly onto matter/energy flows, but I argue that these challenges can be resolved. The result is a defensible land community concept that is ontologically robust enough to be a locus of moral obligation while being consistent with contemporary ecological theory and practice. (shrink)
Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic, an extremely influential view in environmental ethics and conservation biology, is committed to the claim that interdependence between humans, other species, and abiotic entities plays a central role in our ethical responsibilities. Thus, a robust understanding of “interdependence” is necessary for evaluating the viability of the Land Ethic and related views, including ecological ones. I characterize and defend a Leopoldian concept of “interdependence,” arguing that it ought to include both negative and positive causal relations. I also (...) show that strength and type of interdependence can vary with time, space, and context. (shrink)
Life is the center of our existence. One would be tempted to say that first of all we live. However, our existence does not seem to pass in that modality. The exacerbated materialism in which our existence takes place, displaces life from the center of the scene. Our society is organized around production, consumerism, exploitation, efficiency, trade and propaganda. That is to say, our existence seems to have economy as the center of organization of our activities. The struggle of this (...) century that is beginning is to put life at the center of our existence, and to put economy in its proper place, that is, in the service of life. (shrink)
Should we help wild animals suffering negative impacts from anthropogenic climate change? It follows from diverse ethical positions that we should, although this idea troubles defenders of wildness value. One already existing climate threat to wild animals, especially in the Arctic, is the disruption of food chains. I take polar bears as my example here: Should we help starving polar bears? If so, how? A recent scientific paper suggests that as bears’ food access worsens due to a changing climate, we (...) should consider supplementary feeding. Feeding starving bears could meet ethical obligations to help wild animals suffering from climate change. But supplementary feeding may also cause harms, and lead to park-like management of some bear populations – a concern for those who care about the value of wildness. While this situation is in many ways intractable, I’ll make a tentative suggestion of a possible way forward for wildlife managers. (shrink)
Philosophy of Science in Practice (PoSiP) has the “practice of science” as its object of research. Notwithstanding, it does not possess yet any general or specific methodology in order to achieve its goal. Instead of sticking to one protocol, PoSiP takes advantage of a set of approaches from different fields. This thesis takes as a starting point a collaborative and interdisciplinary research between two Ph.D. students from distinct areas: ecology and philosophy. This collaboration showed how a scientist could benefit from (...) philosophy of science (in this case study the philosophical approach of. mechanistic explanation) to construct a model of his explanandum, by means of heuristics approach (heuristics as an instrument but also a methodological approach) and, also allowed philosophy of science take a closer look into the scientific practice to investigate how explanations are constructed and how scientific understanding is achieved (in this thesis, with a dialogue with the contextual theory of scientific understanding). As a result, it is asserted that (i) mechanistic explanation possess limitations but may work as epistemic instruments that mediate between theories, data, scientists, and models; (ii) explanation construction and scientific understanding deeply relies on intuition; (iii) scientific understanding is an instant, a moment, a temporary achievement, and its process may happen in degrees; (iv) philosophy of science, by means of heuristics process, may enhance scientists’ epistemic virtues, improving his academic skills, by means of self-evaluation. This research shows that interdisciplinarity and collaborative work can act, through heuristics, as a toolbox for PoSiP to achieve its goal of understanding how science is made. Despite its success, an analysis of this collaborative practice leads to some fundamental issues. First, philosophy of science in practice is a philosophy of past practice, in that the majority of examples used by mainstream PoSiP come from the final products of science. Second, is it philosophy of [science in practice] or philosophy of science [in practice]? How to practice philosophy of scientific practice and, how to practice interdisciplinarity in the philosophy of scientific practices simultaneously to its scientific activity? This research exposes the epistemic role heuristics and interdisciplinarity possess as methodological toolboxes for philosophy of science in practice. It is defended that other ways of constructing sciences would be through different dynamics such as collaborative networks and interdisciplinarity research contributing to the vision of Trading Zones from Peter Galison, in which bridges between specialized disciplines are created in order to exchange knowledge and information. (shrink)
With the goal of better understanding how science, religion, and poetic art came together in the work of Christopher Southgate, the authors first explore his spiritual poetry. They come away with a better understanding of the author’s commitment to a broad naturalism that contributes, along with his own faith experience, to his prose works in the emerging field of ecotheology. The authors conclude that Southgate’s work is part of the worldwide emergence of a theological rationale that supports environmentalism, the protection (...) of species, and the conservation of biodiversity. The authors find Southgate’s poetry warm, appealing, accessible, and re-readable to good effect, but with a thread of danger and warning throughout. Both features are quite appropriate for the environmental movement in the twenty-first century. (shrink)
Entrenched biases in favour of large, charismatic mammals, towards predators, towards terrestrial animals and towards species that have cultural importance can influence the selection of candidate species for de-extinction research. Often, the species with the highest existence value will also be the ones that raise the most serious animal welfare concerns.
Complex environmental problems require well-researched policies that integrate knowledge from both the natural and social sciences. Epistemic differences can impede interdisciplinary collaboration, as shown by debates between conservation biologists and anthropologists who are working to preserve biological diversity and support economic development in central Africa. Disciplinary differences with regard to 1) facts, 2) rigor, 3) causal explanation, and 4) research goals reinforce each other, such that early decisions about how to define concepts or which methods to adopt may tilt research (...) design and data interpretation toward one discipline’s epistemological framework. If one of the contributing fields imposes a solution to an epistemic problem, this sets the stage for what I call disciplinary capture. Avoiding disciplinary capture requires clear communication between collaborators, but beyond this it also requires that collaborators craft research questions and innovate research designs which are different from the inherited epistemological frameworks of contributing disciplines. (shrink)
Invasion biology is a relatively young discipline which is important, interesting and currently in turmoil. Biological invaders can threaten native ecosystems and global biodiversity; they can incur massive economic costs and even introduce diseases. Invasion biologists generally agree that being able to predict when and where an invasion will occur is essential for progress in their field. However, successful predictions of this type remain elusive. This has caused a rift, as some researchers are pessimistic and believe that invasion biology has (...) no future, whereas others are more optimistic and believe that the key to successful prediction is the creation of a general, unified theoretical framework which encompasses all invasion events. Although I agree that there is a future for invasion biology, extensive synthesis is not the way to better predictions. I argue that the causes of invasion phenomena are exceedingly complex and heterogeneous, hence it is impossible to make generalizations over particular events without sacrificing causal detail. However, this causal detail is just what is needed for the specific predictions which the scientists wish to produce. Instead, I show that a limited type of synthesis is a more useful tool for generating successful predictions. An important implication of my view is that it points to a more pluralistic approach to invasion biology, where generalization and prediction are treated as important yet distinct research goals. (shrink)
This work applies the competitive exclusion principle and the concept of potential competitors as simple axiomatic tools to generalized situations in ecology. These tools enable apparent competition and its dual counterpart to be explicitly evaluated in poorly understood ecological systems. Within this set-theory framework we explore theoretical symmetries and invariances, De Morgan’s laws, frozen evolutionary diversity and virtual processes. In particular, we find that the exclusion principle compromises the geometrical growth of the number of species. By theoretical extending this principle, (...) we can describe interspecific depredation in the dual case. This study also briefly considers the debated situation of intraspecific competition. The ecological consequences of our findings are discussed; particularly, the use of our framework to reinterpret coupled mathematical differential equations describing certain ecological processes. (shrink)
A growing body of empirical research suggests many animal species are capable of social learning and even have cultural behavioral traditions. Social learning has implications for community ecology; changes in behavior can lead to changes in inter- and intra-specific interactions. The paper explores possible implications of social learning for ecological community dynamics. Four arguments are made: social learning can result in locally-specific ecological relationships; socially-mediated, locally-specific ecological relationships can have localized indirect interspecific population effects; the involvement of multiple co-existing species (...) in socially learned, locally-specific behavior has the potential to create community-wide effects, including varying levels of stability and instability; and social learning can create new intra- and inter-specific selection pressures on local taxa, potentially resulting in rapid evolution. Implications of all four arguments are discussed in relation to community ecology research and modeling. (shrink)
In this paper, I adopt the view that if general forces or processes can be detected in ecology, then the principles or models that represent them should provide predictions that are approximately correct and, when not, should lead to the sorts of intervening factors that usually make trouble. I argue that Lotka–Volterra principles do not meet this standard; in both their simple “strategic” and their complex “tactical” forms they are not approximately correct of the findings of the laboratory experiments and (...) historical studies most likely to confirm them; nor do they instruct ecologists where to look for likely intervening factors. Evidence drawn from long-term case studies and other available data sets suggests that the populations of predators and their prey are not regulated by an interaction between them but are controlled by transient, contingent, and accidental events that affect each animal and each population individualistically. This paper argues that the presence of general forces or processes in ecology should be determined by comparing competing models of these forces not just to each other or to a null model but also to case studies that may challenge theoretical approaches with convincing individualistic causal accounts of the phenomena. (shrink)
This paper analyzes the relevance and interconnection of two forms of historicity in ecological restoration, namely historical fidelity and path dependence. Historical fidelity is the practice of attempting to restore an ecological system to some sort of idealized past condition. Path dependence occurs when a system can evolve in alternative local equilibria, and that the order and timing of the events that follow from the initial state influence which equilibrium is reached. Using theoretical examples and case studies, the following analysis (...) shows that path dependence can seriously impinge the feasibility of historical fidelity, thus reinforcing the idea that restoration ecology needs to move away from a rigid reliance on historical fidelity and is sometimes justified to endorse an interventionist agenda. Yet, contra recent criticisms, I argue that ecological restoration, directed by prudential and evidence-based reasoning, should maintain historical fidelity as one of its guiding objectives. (shrink)
Lawton’s contingency thesis states that there are no useful generalizations at the level of ecological communities because these systems are especially prone to contingent historical events. I argue that this influential thesis has been grounded on the wrong kind of evidence. CT is best understood in Woodward’s terms as a claim about the instability of certain causal dependencies across different background conditions. A recent distinction between evolution and ecology reveals what an adequate test of Lawton’s thesis would look like. To (...) date, CT remains untested. But developments in genome and molecular ecology point in a promising direction. (shrink)
In their article “Is There a Prima Facie Duty to Preserve Genetic Integrity in Conservation Biology?” Yasha Rower and Emma Harris argue that there is no underived prima facie obligation to preserve genetic integrity. In particular, it is argued that there is no such obligation because genetic integrity has no intrinsic value. In this commentary I raise doubts about this part of the authors’ argument. I argue that there might well be at least prima facie value in genetic integrity, that (...) the Moorean isolation test the authors use might not work in their favour, and that connecting genetic integrity to the idea of identity might work against the authors’ argument. (shrink)
What is it about simulation models that has led some practitioners to treat them as potential sources of empirical data on the real-world systems being simulated; that is, to treat simulations as ‘artificial worlds’within which to perform computational ‘experiments’? Here we use the work of Richard Levins as a starting point in identifying the appeal of this model building strategy, and proceed to account for why this appeal is strongest for computational modellers. This analysis suggests a perspective on simulation modelling (...) that makes room for ‘artificial worlds’ as legitimate science without having to accept that they should be treated as sources of empirical data. (shrink)
The development of ecological thinking in North America has been conditioned by the imperative aiming at a valuation of the biotic community. Since the end of WWII, the US population was warned against the dangerous and violent alterations of nature. Many then found in theology an unforeseen ally. I review the roots of the tension which led to debates involving radical ecologism or its denial, and I aim at analyzing it philosophically.
The following considers the role of historical fidelity in habitat reconstruction efforts. To what extent should habitat reconstruction be guided by the goal of recreating some past state of a damaged ecosystem? I consider Sarkar’s “replacement argument,” which holds that, in most habitat reconstruction efforts, there is little justification for appealing to historical fidelity. I argue that Sarkar does not provide adequate grounds for deprecating historical fidelity relative to other natural values such as biodiversity or wild nature.