NUÑEZ martin Andres
Controversies in ecology: competition, from certainty to the question
Año: 2005 vol. 15 p. 229 - 238
In the present work we consider the dynamic of change in the science of ecology. To this end, we will keep in mind that ecology, as a scientific discipline, has scarcely been studied relative to other fields of science, and because of this, the main epistemological studies do not consider the peculiarities of ecology. The changes in ecology do not correspond clearly to a cumulative trajectory of scientific progress (such as the one proposed by classical philosophers of science), or to a model of successive ruptures (as in Kuhn´s interpretation of scientific change). In comparison to these alternatives, the trajectory of change in ecology is more complex. This complexity is heralded in the analysis of the permanent controversies in ecology, one of the main sources of self-criticism in the discipline that is seen as a problem to solve rather than a way of progress. In some cases, controversies are seen as evidence of the immaturity and/or weakness of this scientific discipline. In this study, we analyzed the changes in ecology using the concepts in the model of controversial spaces, developed by Nudler. In this model, even when controversies do not reach a final solution, as many in ecology, they can be progressive from an epistemic perspective, which means that progress can be produced through controversies that do not reach a synthesis. We applied this model to one of the most passionate controversies of recent years in ecology: interspecific competition as an explanatory factor for the structure of communities. Since the origin of ecology, competition has been one of the best recorded interactions, producing a large body of empirical data and theories, some of them foundational to the discipline. This controversy was originated by the use of mathematical and statistical tools as null models in the analysis of the effects of competition on natural communities, such as in the G. E. Hutchinson rule of 1.3 and in the J. M. Diamond community assembly rules, where competition was assumed without rigorous tests. We review the terms of controversy and explored the ways in which this area of knowledge has been moved to a clearer thematic and interpretive enrichment. Even so, this controversy continues to wound sensitivities and to produce resentment. We consider that this progress through controversies could be an important mechanism that ecology could have to march forward, and for this reason, perhaps something to seek rather than to avoid.