•  306
    Competition Theory and Channeling Explanation
    Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 3 (20130604): 1-16. 2011.
    The complexity and heterogeneity of causes influencing ecology’s domain challenge its capacity to generate a general theory without exceptions, raising the question of whether ecology is capable, even in principle, of achieving the sort of theoretical success enjoyed by physics. Weber has argued that competition theory built around the Competitive Exclusion Principle (especially Tilman’s resource-competition model) offers an example of ecology identifying a law-like causal regularity. However, I…Read more
  •  108
    The Legend of Order and Chaos: Communities and Early Community Ecology
    In Kevin deLaplante, Bryson Browne & Kent A. Peacock (eds.), Philosophy of Ecology, Elsevier. pp. 49--108. 2011.
    A community, for ecologists, is a unit for discussing collections of organisms. It refers to collections of populations, which consist (by definition) of individuals of a single species. This is straightforward. But communities are unusual kinds of objects, if they are objects at all. They are collections consisting of other diverse, scattered, partly-autonomous, dynamic entities (that is, animals, plants, and other organisms). They often lack obvious boundaries or stable memberships, as their c…Read more
  •  62
    Method and Metaphysics in Clements's and Gleason's Ecological Explanations
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 38 (1): 85-109. 2005.
    To generate explanatory theory, ecologists must wrestle with how to represent the extremely many, diverse causes behind phenomena in their domain. Early twentieth-century plant ecologists Frederic E. Clements and Henry A. Gleason provide a textbook example of different approaches to explaining vegetation, with Clements allegedly committed, despite abundant exceptions, to a law of vegetation, and Gleason denying the law in favor of less organized phenomena. However, examining Clements's approach …Read more
  •  48
    Hempel’s Provisos and Ceteris Paribus Clauses
    Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 42 (2): 207-218. 2011.
    The problem of ceteris paribus clauses and Hempel’s problem of provisos are closely-related difficulties. Both challenge advocates of accounts of scientific theories involving laws understood as universal generalizations, and they have been treated as identical problems. Earman and Roberts argue that the problems are distinct. Towards arguing against them, I characterize the relationship between Hempel’s provisos and one way of expressing ceteris paribus clauses. I then describe the relationship…Read more
  •  30
    Chimeras and "human dignity"
    with Josephine Johnston
    American Journal of Bioethics 3 (3). 2003.
    One argument Robert and Baylis do not raise in their article on the creation of interspecies chimeras using human cellular material is that the creation of these chimeras would, or could, offend human dignity. Yet, human dignity is one of the most common concerns raised in public debates, academic arguments, and policy documents regarding biotechnology in general, and the creation animal-human chimeras in particular. … The concept is ill-defined within bioethics and … risks being dismissed as me…Read more
  •  22
    Biodiversity as a General, Scientific Concept
    Ethics, Policy and Environment 18 (1): 41-43. 2015.
    Morar et al. argue that justifications for conservation based on assessments of biodiversity are vacuous, because ‘biodiversity’ is a flawed concept. However, their analysis of the concept mistakes how scientific concepts function. The concept ‘biodiversity’ stands up to their criticisms
  •  14
    Ecological Interdependence via Constraints
    Philosophy of Science 85 (5): 1115-1126. 2018.
    Although ecological theory has historically focused on negative interactions among populations, like competition and predation, ecologists and conservation biologists highlight the significance of interdependence. It is not clear, however, what is asserted in the causal hypothesis that one population is interdependent on others. This essay argues that the most informative causal regularities for representing dependencies are those connecting populations through environmental constraint variables…Read more