Analogical Thinking in Ecology: Looking beyond Disciplinary Boundaries

The Quarterly Review of Biology 85 (2):171--182 (2010)
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Abstract

ABSTRACT We consider several ways in which a good understanding of modern techniques and principles in physics can elucidate ecology, and we focus on analogical reasoning between these two branches of science. Analogical reasoning requires an understanding of both sciences and an appreciation of the similarities and points of contact between the two. In the current ecological literature on the relationship between ecology and physics, there has been some misunderstanding about the nature of modern physics and its methods. Physics is seen as being much cleaner and tidier than ecology. When compared to this idealized, fictional version of physics, ecology looks very different, and the prospect of ecology and physics learning from one another is questionable. We argue that physics, once properly understood, is more like ecology than ecologists have thus far appreciated. Physicists and ecologists can and do learn from each other, and, in this paper, we outline how analogical reasoning can facilitate such exchanges.

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Mark Colyvan
University of Sydney

Citations of this work

The Mechanistic Approach of The Theory of Island Biogeography and its Current Relevance.Viorel Pâslaru - 2014 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 45 (1):22-33.

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