The galilean turn in population ecology

Biology and Philosophy 18 (3):401-414 (2003)
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Abstract

The standard mathematical models in population ecology assume that a population's growth rate is a function of its environment. In this paper we investigate an alternative proposal according to which the rate of change of the growth rate is a function of the environment and of environmental change. We focus on the philosophical issues involved in such a fundamental shift in theoretical assumptions, as well as on the explanations the two theories offer for some of the key data such as cyclic populations. We also discuss the relationship between this move in population ecology and a similar move from first-order to second-order differential equations championed by Galileo and Newton in celestial mechanics

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Mark Colyvan
University of Sydney

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