The Explanatory Tools of Theoretical Population Biology

Abstract

What is the role (or roles) of mathematical theory in ecology and evolutionary biology? How does the construction of such theory advance our understanding? The lack of clear answers to this pair of questions has been a source of controversy both within the sciences themselves, and in the philosophical discussions of these sciences as well. In an attempt to shed some light on these issues, I look at what some biologists have had to say on the matter and at some particular examples. I then draw some morals about the constraints on a successful philosophical treatment of the problem and on the limitations of current philosophical approaches to this type of theoretical explanation.

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