•  114
    The Aims and Structures of Ecological Research Programs
    Philosophical Topics 47 (1): 1-20. 2019.
    Neutral Theory is controversial in ecology. Ecologists and philosophers have diagnosed the source of the controversy as: its false assumption that individuals in different species within the same trophic level are ecologically equivalent, its conflict with Competition Theory and the adaptation of species, its role as a null hypothesis, and as a Lakatosian research programme. In this paper, I show why we should instead understand the conflict at the level of research programs which involve more t…Read more
  •  52
    We evaluate a common reasoning strategy used in community ecology and comparative psychology for selecting between competing hypotheses. This strategy labels one hypothesis as a “null” on the grounds of its simplicity and epistemically privileges it as accepted until rejected. We argue that this strategy is unjustified. The asymmetrical treatment of statistical null hypotheses is justified through the experimental and mathematical contexts in which they are used, but these contexts are missing i…Read more
  •  23
    Modeling: Neutral, Null, and Baseline
    Philosophy of Science 85 (4): 594-616. 2018.
    Two strategies for using a model as “null” are distinguished. Null modeling evaluates whether a process is causally responsible for a pattern by testing it against a null model. Baseline modeling measures the relative significance of various processes responsible for a pattern by detecting deviations from a baseline model. When these strategies are conflated, models are illegitimately privileged as accepted until rejected. I illustrate this using the neutral theory of ecology and draw general le…Read more
  •  366
    Neutral Theory, Biased World
    Dissertation, University of Minnesota. 2016.
    The ecologist today finds scarce ground safe from controversy. Decisions must be made about what combination of data, goals, methods, and theories offers them the foundations and tools they need to construct and defend their research. When push comes to shove, ecologists often turn to philosophy to justify why it is their approach that is scientific. Karl Popper’s image of science as bold conjectures and heroic refutations is routinely enlisted to justify testing hypotheses over merely confirmin…Read more