I hate to have to do this, but this node should really be more thoroughly explained as the concept
is integral to the science of biology, and particularly to ecologists
. But, before I get on to that, I really have to reply to Alchemists'
inference that the science of biology
is nothing more than butterfly collection.
The criticisms that he levels at biologists in general are, in my opinion, unfair and misleading. Not that it is inappropriate to ask biologists the two kinds of questions listed above, but the fact that any working biologist may not be able to answer should not be taken as evidence of the poor scientific status of the field of biology. After stating that biologists are "not particularly good at quantities", he then contrasts these individuals with chemists and astrophysicists. The latter are able, apparently, to tell you, at the drop of a hat, about the distance between any two stars and the enthalpy of any reaction. I would claim that they would likely have to look up this information prior to responding, as a biologist would have to do in the prior cases.
Biologists can be particularly good at mathematics and numbers, if their work requires it. Anyone who doubts this should look at any recent publication from the journals of vegetation science (particularly strong in multivariate statistics) and evolution (very strong in mathematical modeling).
Now, that being said, on with the node
itself. The concept of scale is integral to modern ecologist
s, and has even an overriding paradigm: hierarchy theory
Hierarchy theory is, essentially, the following list of concepts:
- Everything is connected and inter-related.
- Every ecological entity is referred to as a holon.
- The speed at which a holon varies depends on its spatial scale and the scales of those holons that influence it most strongly.
- The strength of the relationship between two is determined by their scales: the closer the scales, the stronger the relationship.
This concept allows ecologists to attack complex, hierarchical questions in an intelligent
manner. Recent work I've
seen uses hierarchy theory to create models of ecological function, and subsequently applies modern statistical and numerical approaches to determine the scales at which communities
s and species