Laws in Ecology: Diverse Modes of Explanation for a Holistic Science

Ecology's reputation as a holistic science is partly due to widespread misconceptions of its nature as well as shortcomings in its methodology. This article argues that the pursuit of empirical laws of ecology can foster the emergence of a more unified and predictive science based on complement...

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Bibliographic Details
Published in:Zygon
Authors: Gunton, Richard; Gilbert, Francis 1956-
Format: Electronic Article
Language:English
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Published: [2017]
In:Zygon
Year: 2017, Volume: 52, Issue: 2, Pages: 538-560
Standardized Subjects / Keyword chains:B Ecology / Natural sciences / Holism
Further subjects:B biotic
B numerical
B Paradigm
B Herman Dooyeweerd
B Abstraction
B physical
B Reductionism
B spatial
Online Access: Volltext (Verlag)
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Summary:Ecology's reputation as a holistic science is partly due to widespread misconceptions of its nature as well as shortcomings in its methodology. This article argues that the pursuit of empirical laws of ecology can foster the emergence of a more unified and predictive science based on complementary modes of explanation. Numerical analyses of population dynamics have a distinguished pedigree, spatial analyses generate predictive laws of macroecology, and physical analyses are typically pursued by the ecosystem paradigm. The most characteristically ecological laws, however, are found in biotic analyses in the functional trait paradigm. Holistic credentials for ecology may thus be restored on two bases: its accommodating complementary modes of analysis and explanation, and its having some laws within the least reductionistic mode consistent with its subject matter. These claims, grounded in the aspectual theory of Herman Dooyeweerd, lead to some suggestions for enhancing the versatility and usefulness of ecology—and other sciences—by balancing different research paradigms under a holistic vision.
ISSN:1467-9744
Contains:Enthalten in: Zygon
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Persistent identifiers:DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12334