The Balance of Nature: Ecology's Enduring Myth

By John Kricher | Go to book overview

8
Ecology and Evolution
Process and Paradigm

G.Evelyn Hutchinson authored a classic book about ecology with the title The Ecological Theater and the Evolutionary Play.1 Hutchinson was a genuine polymath when it came to ecology, and a good few of his students became some of the most eminent ecologists of the twentieth century.2 Hutchinson's brief book, written (as this book is) for the lay reader, is engaging as it describes evolution as an ongoing process shaping Earth's various ecosystems, whatever they might be. But there is a deeper, more profound meaning. Evolution is the paradigm, not ecology. Ecology is the process, and it provides the actors and the setting, the “stage.” Ecology continues to enjoy many an empirical success in describing details of how ecosystems are structured and function, but these triumphs are essentially victories of empiricism, not paradigm revelation. All of ecology is really absorbed by evolutionary biology, particularly by natural selection theory. It is the purpose of this chapter to make that crystal clear.

I am part of a generation of ecologists who were introduced to the formal study of ecology by Eugene P. Odum's text, Fundamentals of Ecology.3 This text was originally published in 1953 (384 pages) and I used the second edition, published in 1959 (546 pages). This book was energizing in more ways than one. First, it energized the reader, exciting me about how science is used to study nature. Second, it seemed to be all about energy: how energy moves through ecosystems, how energy structures food chains, how energy

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The Balance of Nature: Ecology's Enduring Myth
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1: Why It Matters 1
  • 2: Of What Purpose Are Mosquitoes? 8
  • 3: Creating Paradigms 20
  • 4: Ecology B.C. (“before Charles”) 40
  • 5: Ecology A.D. (“after Darwin”) 53
  • 6: The Twentieth Century Ecology Comes of Age 67
  • 7: A Visit to Bodie Ecological Space and Time 84
  • 8: Ecology and Evolution Process and Paradigm 97
  • 9: Be Glad to Be an Earthling 113
  • 10: Life Plays the Lottery 128
  • 11: Why Global Climate is like New England Weather 140
  • 12: Taking It from the Top–or the Bottom 155
  • 13: For the Love of Biodiversity (And Stable Ecosystems?) 170
  • 14: Facing Marley's Ghost 186
  • Epilogue 203
  • Acknowledgments 207
  • Notes 209
  • Index 229
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