On Form and Substance in the Life Sciences

Illustration: A. Canamucio In a recent issue of The Scientist, an opinion article by Raymond J. O'Connor suggests that, in contrast to biomedical research, ecology has lagged behind the surging advances of most of the life sciences.1 O'Connor's main argument for the putative lag of ecological sciences is the failure to distinguish form from substance in the hypothetico-deductive research that drives most current scientific endeavors. Categorizing most ecological sciences as descriptive and poss

Juan Bouzat
Feb 4, 2001

Illustration: A. Canamucio
In a recent issue of The Scientist, an opinion article by Raymond J. O'Connor suggests that, in contrast to biomedical research, ecology has lagged behind the surging advances of most of the life sciences.1 O'Connor's main argument for the putative lag of ecological sciences is the failure to distinguish form from substance in the hypothetico-deductive research that drives most current scientific endeavors. Categorizing most ecological sciences as descriptive and possibly dull and most biomedical research as analytical and explanatory may lead to the spread of common misconceptions about ecology as a science and its characteristic differences with biomedical research. I would like to provide a different perspective on the subject, which I believe is essential given that the reading audience may be, by and large, from areas outside the ecological sciences.

I believe O'Connor's article raises two central questions common to all scientific fields: These...

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