NUÑEZ martin Andres
The importance of controversies in the epistemic progress of ecology
NUÑEZ, P. G. NUÑEZ, M. A.
Año: 2007 vol. 32 p. 804 - 811
Ecology, as a scientific discipline, has scarcely been studied relative to other fields of science. In general its epistemic changes were described as a cumulative trajectory of scientific progress, such as the one proposed by classical philosophers of science, or as a model of successive ruptures, as in Kuhn's interpretation of scientific change. In this paper we attempt to show that, like in other scientific disciplines, the trajectory of change in ecology can be different from these dynamics s. Focus is placed on the analysis of controversies in ecology, one of the main sources of self-criticism in the discipline. In some cases, persistent controversies are seen as evidence of the immaturity and/or weakness of this field. In this study controversies are not assumed to be detrimental. Even when controversies do not achieve a synthesis, as many in ecology do not, they can be progressive from an epistemic perspective. In this study two of the most prominent debates in the history of ecology are analyzed: the debate about plant succession and the debate on the role of competition as the principal force structuring natural communities. It is found that, contrary to the common perception of controversies as problems to be avoided, they can produce epistemic progress by means of the incorporation of new questions and the increase in rigor in hypothesis-testing.