Stefan Linquist
University of Guelph
The applied discipline of agroecological design provides a useful case study for examining broader philosophical questions about the existence and importance of ecological generalizations or “laws.” Recent developments in the availability and use of formal meta-analyses have led to the discovery of many resilient generalizations in ecology. However, these “laws” face numerous challenges when it comes to their practical application. Concerns about their reliability and scope might stem from unclear logical and epistemic connections to more foundational or “unifying” generalizations, 2019) which, in ecology, tend to be derived from first principles and in association with highly abstract models. This raises questions about the nature of those foundational generalizations themselves. In particular, how resilient are they compared to the generalizations uncovered by empirically driven methods? Here we propose a procedure for evaluating the resilience of generalizations across five ecologically relevant dimensions. This procedure was applied to seven well known foundational generalizations in ecology. Surprisingly, it turned out to be impossible to estimate the resilience of these foundational generalizations based on the available literature. This points to the need for a more centralized repository of information about ecological generalizations, created with the explicit aim of evaluating such important dimensions as causal mechanism and predictive power.
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DOI 10.1007/s40656-020-00336-9
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Explanatory Unification.Philip Kitcher - 1981 - Philosophy of Science 48 (4):507-531.
Equilibrium Explanation.Elliott Sober - 1983 - Philosophical Studies 43 (2):201 - 210.

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