Article ID: CBB604254804

Bottled Understanding: The Role of Lab Work in Ecology (2020)


It is often thought that the vindication of experimental work lies in its capacity to be revelatory of natural systems. I challenge this idea by examining laboratory experiments in ecology. A central task of community ecology involves combining mathematical models and observational data to identify trophic interactions in natural systems. But many ecologists are also lab scientists: constructing microcosm or ‘bottle’ experiments, physically realizing the idealized circumstances described in mathematical models. What vindicates such ecological experiments? I argue that ‘extrapolationism’, the view that ecological lab work is valuable because it generates truths about natural systems, does not exhaust the epistemic value of such practices. Instead, bottle experiments also generate ‘understanding’ of both ecological dynamics and empirical tools. Some lab work, then, aids theoretical understanding, as well as targeting hypotheses about nature. 1.  Introduction2.  Trophic Interactions and Observational Techniques3.  Cryptic Dynamics in Bottle Experiments4.  Extrapolationism 4.1.  Ecological possibility and actuality4.2.  Ecological heterogeneity5.  Understanding 5.1.  The epistemic good of understanding5.2.  Bottle experiments as understanding-generators5.3.  How understanding travels6.  Conclusion

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Book Schwarz, Astrid E.; (2014)
Experiments in Practice (/isis/citation/CBB001422490/)

Thesis Nelson, Nicole Christine; (2011)
Capturing Complexity: Experimental Systems and Epistemic Scaffolds in Animal Behavior Genetics (/isis/citation/CBB001567338/)

Chapter Ana Duarte Rodrigues; (2021)
Jardins como espaços de ciência, séculos XVI‑XVII (/isis/citation/CBB002422897/)

Article Krohs, Ulrich; (2012)
Convenience Experimentation (/isis/citation/CBB001221586/)

Book Magnani, Lorenzo; Nersessian, Nancy J.; (2002)
Model Based Reasoning: Science, Technology, Values (/isis/citation/CBB000201255/)

Chapter Vrishali Subramanian; Sanjay Chandrasekharan; Nancy J. Nersessian; (2012)
Computational Modeling: Is This the End of Thought Experiments in Science? (/isis/citation/CBB739614030/)

Article Matthieu Husson; (2014)
La tabula tabularum de Jean de Murs et les modèles de l’arithmétique médiévale (/isis/citation/CBB760218453/)

Book Klein, Ursula; (2002)
Tools and Modes of Representation in the Laboratory Sciences (/isis/citation/CBB000302308/)

Article Gramelsberger, Gabriele; (2011)
What Do Numerical (Climate) Models Really Represent? (/isis/citation/CBB001024172/)

Article Diéguez, Antonio; (2013)
When do Models Provide Genuine Understanding, and Why Does It Matter? (/isis/citation/CBB001420762/)

Article Donaghy, Josephine; (2013)
Autonomous Mathematical Models: Constructing Theories of Metabolic Control (/isis/citation/CBB001420759/)

Chapter Porter, Theodore M.; (2002)
Models, Analogies, and Statistical Reason, 1760-1900 (/isis/citation/CBB000201994/)

Book Bialynicki-Birula, Iwo; Bialynicki-Birula, Iwona; (2004)
Modeling Reality: How Computers Mirror Life (/isis/citation/CBB000500236/)

Article Green, Sara; Wolkenhauer, Olaf; (2013)
Tracing Organizing Principles: Learning from the History of Systems Biology (/isis/citation/CBB001420760/)

Article Palmieri, Paolo; (2003)
Mental Models in Galileo's Early Mathematization of Nature (/isis/citation/CBB000340879/)

Article Heggie, Vanessa; (2013)
Experimental Physiology, Everest and Oxygen: From the Ghastly Kitchens to the Gasping Lung (/isis/citation/CBB001252461/)

Authors & Contributors
Nersessian, Nancy J.
Bialynicki-Birula, Iwona
Magnani, Lorenzo
Israel, Giorgio
Porter, Theodore M.
Klein, Ursula
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Filosofia e História da Biologia
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
British Journal for the History of Science
History of Psychiatry
Kluwer Academic
Oxford University Press
Pickering & Chatto
Cornell University
Tinta da China
Models and modeling in science
Experiments and experimentation
Mathematics and its relationship to nature
Philosophy of science
Galilei, Galileo
John of Murs
Time Periods
20th century
16th century
17th century
21st century
20th century, late
20th century, early
Everest, Mount (China and Nepal)

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment