The “Balance of Nature” Metaphor and Equilibrium in Population Ecology

  title={The “Balance of Nature” Metaphor and Equilibrium in Population Ecology},
  author={Kim Cuddington},
  journal={Biology and Philosophy},
  • K. Cuddington
  • Published 1 September 2001
  • Biology
  • Biology and Philosophy
I claim that the “balance of nature” metaphoris shorthand for a paradigmatic view of natureas a beneficent force. I trace the historicalorigins of this concept and demonstrate that itoperates today in the discipline of populationecology. Although it might be suspected thatthis metaphor is a pre-theoretic description ofthe more precisely defined notion ofequilibrium, I demonstrate that “balance ofnature” has constricted the meaning ofmathematical equilibrium in population ecology.As well as… 
The Metaphorical Links Between Ecology, Ethics, and Society
It is now widely understood that metaphors are not simply rhetorical embellishment in science, but serve a critical epistemic role for the creation and exploration of theories. Three prevalent
Individuals, populations and the balance of nature: the question of persistence in ecology
The focus is thus shifted from the overproduction of offspring and the consequent density dependent population pressure thought to follow, to the adaptations and ecological circumstances that support those relatively few individuals that do survive.
Ecology, Complexity, and Metaphor
By understanding metaphor as a necessary ally and not a threat to ecological knowledge, the contextual understanding of complexity may be enriched while continuing to invoke it in useful ways.
Ambiguous, circular and polysemous: students' definitions of the “balance of nature” metaphor
The “balance of nature” metaphor has been used to explain the functioning of natural systems from ancient times and continues to be invoked in popular culture, in spite of controversy regarding its
Embodied Realism and Invasive Species
Save the planet: eliminate biodiversity
It is suggested that in current scientific practice biodiversity is generally an unnecessary placeholder for biological value of all sorts, and that the authors are better off eliminating it from conservation biology, or at least drastically reducing its role.
Towards a Critical Re-Appraisal of Ecology Education: Scheduling an Educational Intervention to Revisit the ‘Balance of Nature’ Metaphor
The ‘Balance of Nature’ metaphor is a pervasive idea in ecology. However, the scientific community acknowledged during the last decades that equilibrium conditions are rare, while disturbance events
Unravelling the holistic nature of ecosystems: biology teachers’ conceptions of ecosystem balance and self-regulation
ABSTRACT The present study explores how in-service secondary education Greek biology teachers understand aspects of the concept of ecosystem under the assumption that the ecosystem is an ill-defined
Visualizing pre-service biology teachers´ conceptions about population dynamics in ecosystems
The Balance of Nature (BoN) metaphor leads to various naïve conceptions about ecosystem dynamics that do not address current scientific theories adequately. An appropriate alternative is the Flux of


Changing Concepts of the Balance of Nature
  • F. Egerton
  • Environmental Science
    The Quarterly Review of Biology
  • 1973
Balance-of-nature concepts apparently have receded in importance with the rise of ecological specialization, probably because ecologists have developed more precise concepts of productivity and ecosystem can serve about the same explanatory functions.
Big Questions in Ecology. (Book Reviews: The Balance of Nature? Ecological Issues in the Conservation of Species and Communities.)
Stuart L. Pimm addresses five kinds of ecological stability--stability in the strict sense, resilience, variability, persistence, and resistance--and shows how they provide ways of comparing natural populations and communities as well as theories about them.
Metaphor and Thought: Metaphor and theory change: What is “metaphor” a metaphor for?
Introduction In the now classic essay “Metaphor” (Black, 1962b), Max Black considers and rejects various formulations of the “substitution view” of metaphor, according to which every metaphorical
Animal Ecology and Evolution
  • J. G.
  • Environmental Science
  • 1931
THIS little book consists of three lectures, “The Regulation of Numbers”, “The Significance of Migration”, and “The Real Life of Animals”. An environment is an entity composed of plants and animals,
Discordant Harmonies: A New Ecology for the Twenty-first Century
The moon in the nautilus shell: nature in the 21st century Postscript: A guide to action Chapter notes Key concepts and terms.
The shift from metaphor to analogy in western science
Analogy and metaphor are central to scientific thought. They figure in discovery, as in Rutherford's analogy of the solar system for the atom or Faraday's use of lines of magnetized iron filings to
Weak trophic interactions and the balance of nature
The results show that weak to intermediate strength links are important in promoting community persistence and stability, and data on interaction strengths in natural food webs indicate that food-web interaction strengths are indeed characterized by many weak interactions and a few strong interactions.
Mechanism, Organism, and Society: Some Models in Natural and Social Science
  • K. Deutsch
  • Computer Science
    Philosophy of Science
  • 1951
Knowledge is physical process, or rather a particular configuration of physical processes, which is the process in which at least three other physical processes are incompletely matched.
Ecology: The Experimental Analysis of Distribution and Abundance
This book discusses ecosystem dynamics under Changing Climates, which includes community dynamics at the community level, and factors that limit Distributions, which limit the amount of variation in population size.
Elements of Physical Biology.
The author has the problem of evolution always before him, and considers analytically the effect on population of a change in the behaviour of individuals in Elements of Physical Biology.