OOS 80-2
Socio/political context of ecological theory: An historical overview

Thursday, August 13, 2015: 1:50 PM
340, Baltimore Convention Center
John H. Vandermeer, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Newton’s great achievements came amidst his personal religious reflections, arguably giving rise to the theist theoretical position that the creator does not intervene today in his creations. Darwin’s great achievement came amidst his personal sacred cause, the abolition of slavery. These examples, among the greatest of theoretical advances in all history, make it clear that something more than an idealized notion of pure science was motivating. Similar examples are peppered throughout the history of science, and it would be unusual indeed if the field of ecology were any less subject to sociopolitical contingencies. This presentation will explore the sociopolitical context in which several of the classical theoretical approaches in ecology have been undertaken.


It is difficult, sometimes impossible, to avoid the sociopolitical atmosphere within which theorizing is constructed, as true today as it was for Newton and Darwin. While sometimes blithely ignorant of this fact and deifying the idea of scientific neutrality, ignoring these details may infuse theory with unintended bias, ironically precisely opposite to intentions.