In Defense of Ecology

Raymond J. O'Connor1 attributes what he calls the "faltering progress of ecological research" to lack of creativity on the part of ecologists and a failure to follow the examples of more "successful" sciences (e.g., molecular genetics and physics). We agree that ecology would benefit from a greater emphasis on generality and conceptual unification. However, we take issue with both the contention that ecological science has failed to progress and that the approaches of other disciplines can be ap

Jonathan Shurin
Jan 21, 2001

Raymond J. O'Connor1 attributes what he calls the "faltering progress of ecological research" to lack of creativity on the part of ecologists and a failure to follow the examples of more "successful" sciences (e.g., molecular genetics and physics). We agree that ecology would benefit from a greater emphasis on generality and conceptual unification. However, we take issue with both the contention that ecological science has failed to progress and that the approaches of other disciplines can be applied to ecology to produce more worthwhile science.

O'Connor's evidence that ecology is unsuccessful takes three forms. First, he contends that ecological hypotheses are focused on natural history and not general hypotheses about how ecological systems work. He cites three ecological studies that employ "rigorous analysis and logical thinking" and contends that these examples are anachronistic. These studies very well represent the state of the art in ecology. Even a casual look...

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