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Article
The Mechanistic Approach of 'The Theory of Island Biogeography' and its Current Relevance
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • Viorel Pâslaru, University of Dayton
Document Type
Article
Publication Date
3-1-2014
Abstract
Philosophers of science have examined The Theory of Island Biogeography by Robert MacArthur and E. O. Wilson (1967) mainly due to its important contribution to modeling in ecology, but they have not examined it as a representative case of ecological explanation. In this paper, I scrutinize the type of explanation used in this paradigmatic work of ecology. I describe the philosophy of science of MacArthur and Wilson and show that it is mechanistic. Based on this account and in light of contributions to the mechanistic conception of explanation due to Craver (2007), and Bechtel and Richardson (1993), I argue that MacArthur and Wilson use a mechanistic approach to explain the species-area relationship. In light of this examination, I formulate a normative account of mechanistic explanation in ecology. Furthermore, I argue that it offers a basis for methodological unification of ecology and solves a dispute on the nature of ecology. Lastly, I show that proposals for a new paradigm of biogeography appear to maintain the norms of mechanistic explanation implicit in The Theory of Island Biogeography.
Inclusive pages
22-33
ISBN/ISSN
1369-8486
Document Version
Postprint
Comments

The document available for download is the author's accepted manuscript, provided in compliance with publisher policy on self-archiving. Some differences may exist between the manuscript and the published version; as such, researchers wishing to quote directly from this resource are advised to consult the version of record. Any content used from the source must be attributed properly.

Permission documentation is on file.

Publisher
Elsevier
Peer Reviewed
Yes
Keywords
  • Mechanistic explanation,
  • Ecology,
  • Island biogeography,
  • MacArthur,
  • E. O. WilsonO.
Citation Information
Viorel Pâslaru. "The Mechanistic Approach of 'The Theory of Island Biogeography' and its Current Relevance" Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences Vol. 45 (2014)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/viorel_paslaru/4/