Biology and Philosophy 32 (1):51-71 (2017)

Stephen Andrew Inkpen
Harvard University
In this paper I argue, first, that ecologists have routinely treated humans—or more specifically, anthropogenic causal factors—as disturbing conditions. I define disturbing conditions as exogenous variables, variables “outside” a model, that when present in a target system, inhibit the applicability or accuracy of the model. This treatment is surprising given that humans play a dominant role in many ecosystems and definitions of ecology contain no fundamental distinction between human and natural. Second, I argue that the treatment of humans as disturbing conditions is an idealization: since it is, and has long been, known that humans are pervasive, this treatment amounts to an intentionally introduced theoretical distortion. Finally, characterizing this treatment as idealization forces us to confront the question of its justification, and so, drawing on three different kinds of idealization, I evaluate how this treatment may be justified.
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DOI 10.1007/s10539-016-9537-z
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References found in this work BETA

Three Kinds of Idealization.Michael Weisberg - 2007 - Journal of Philosophy 104 (12):639-659.

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Citations of this work BETA

On the Definition of Ecology.Mark Sagoff - 2017 - Biological Theory 12 (2):85-98.
Does Environmental Science Crowd Out Non-Epistemic Values?Kinley Gillette, Stephen Andrew Inkpen & C. Tyler DesRoches - 2021 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 87:81-92.

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