Bottled Understanding: The Role of Lab Work in Ecology


Authors
Adrian Currie
Cambridge University
Abstract
It is often thought that the vindication of experimental work lies in its capacity to be revelatory of natural systems. I challenge this idea by examining laboratory experiments in ecology. A central task of community ecology involves combining mathematical models and observational data to identify trophic interactions in natural systems. But many ecologists are also lab scientists: constructing microcosm or ‘bottle’ experiments, physically realizing the idealized circumstances described in mathematical models. What vindicates such ecological experiments? I argue that ‘extrapolationism’, the view that ecological lab work is valuable because it generates truths about natural systems, does not exhaust the epistemic value of such practices. Instead, bottle experiments also generate ‘understanding’ of both ecological dynamics and empirical tools. Some lab-work, then, aids theoretical understanding, as well as targeting hypotheses about nature.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1093/bjps/axy047
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 42,938
External links

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

Is Water H2O? Evidence, Realism and Pluralism.Hasok Chang - 2012 - Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science.
No Understanding Without Explanation.Michael Strevens - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 44 (3):510-515.
The Strategy of Model-Based Science.Peter Godfrey-Smith - 2006 - Biology and Philosophy 21 (5):725-740.
Causes That Make a Difference.C. Kenneth Waters - 2007 - Journal of Philosophy 104 (11):551-579.
Idealization and the Aims of Science.Angela Potochnik - 2017 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

View all 31 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Why Experiments Matter.Adrian Currie & Arnon Levy - 2018 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy (9-10):1-25.
Simplicity, one-shot hypotheses and paleobiological explanation.Adrian Currie - 2019 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 41 (1):10.
Mass Extinctions as Major Transitions.Adrian Currie - 2019 - Biology and Philosophy 34 (2):29.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Toward a General Philosophy of Ecology.Kevin Leo de Laplante - 1998 - Dissertation, The University of Western Ontario (Canada)
Local and Global Problems in Ecology.A. V. Medvedkov - 1974 - Russian Studies in Philosophy 13 (2):84-86.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2018-12-28

Total views
16 ( #515,461 of 2,259,413 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
9 ( #136,802 of 2,259,413 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature