Are Ecological Theories Like Malthusian Growth Models Testable?
Ecological theory are of much important because unlike the ethological theory which focuses on the impact of biology on the behavior of human beings and animals; the main focus ecological theory is the environmental impact on the growth and development of an individual. Therefore, environmental factors impacts on individual growth depending on the habitat and the environment that every individual engages with. This means that these environmental factors influences the fundamental ecological processes in one way or the other, as a result, it is not easy to clearly show how the science of ecology is developing or how predictable is the ecological theory. Even of recent many researchers continue to question the progress in the ecological science as they critique the ecological research as they argue it is not clear to what extent ecological phenomena are controlled and so they remain predictable. They therefore, tend to remove the ecological theory from the list of the testable explanatory theory as they emphasize the need for predictive model. As much as these researchers argue I personally think that ecological theories are testable and so this essay aims at answering if ecological theories (like Malthusian Growth Models) are testable (McGlade, 2009).
To begin with Thomas Robert Malthus became famous after coming up with his theories about change in population in regard to various factors that directly or in directly act upon them. One of his well known models is the Malthusian growth model/ exponential growth model, which had great value as it contributed so much to the field of population ecology.
Firstly, following Malthusian growth model ecological theories are testable This is very true and clear for a person cannot expect the small size of population to just grow enormously; but as population increases the population grows and when the population decreases the population decreases as well. Mathematically it can be proved and calculated and this is how the ecologists know how many animals are in a particular area or expected to be there given a specific period of time. Therefore, testing something does not mean that there is tangible evidence but prediction can bring a similar conclusion. For instance, if there are 5 elephants in a particular area and yearly these elephants produce 5 infants then in 10years to come there will be 50 elephants. This is very similar to Malthus argument for it shows that increase in population is equals to the population growth and vice versa (Ogilvie & Hirsch,2012).
So it is clear that for science to advance there must be people like Malthus who are bold enough to initiate a model. From Malthus model other theories emerges to justify his argument and to advance science. Though he is using predictions his variables makes sense and so this makes the ecology theory testable because Malthusian growth model gives positive results which can be relied upon even though he is relying solely on predictions. This is just like taking a hypothesis during the commencing of a case study and in most cases science proves this hypothesis right. In Malthusian growth model he uses prediction to test his outcome using variables and parameters and he is able to produce outcome which are tangible and clear enough (McIntosh, 2000).
Secondly, ecological theories are testable because Malthusian growth model has variables and parameters (Hastings & Gross, 2012For a growth models are to be acceptable and influential enough it is supposed to have variables and parameters. In Malthusian model both the variables and the parameters are present; the variable is the population which in the case of Malthus it was the number he took a keen interest in and the parameters is the population growth rate and Malthus knew it before hand. Variables changes with time and parameters in most cases remain constant though they have a tendency to change at times. Therefore, the Malthusian growth model is sound enough and it has all it takes to be testable. Though the variables are assumed and therefore predictable they represent a population in terms of the environment they are in and the rate they are expected to grow. So it is possible for the ecologists to comfortably detect the growth and population in the area as proved by the Malthusian model (Beisner & Cuddington, 2005).
In addition, ecological theories are testable because Malthusian growth model is applicable. It is not therefore, restricted to demography for it can also be applied in the economic field. The fact that this model is applicable in the field of economics proves its effectiveness and its testability which makes other ecological theories equally countable and testable. Additionally, Malthusian growth model is the best example of the logistic growth model for despite the criticism it still forms the basis of various population growth model (Anderson & Anderson, 2007).
Thirdly, ecological growth model are testable because in real life experiences a person can be able to detect the growth rate by playing with numbers. The same case is presented by Malthusian growth model for just by looking at a particular environment it is able to detect the number of a population that can perfectly fit there. For example, in an area with no food there expected to have less growth rate and thus a reduced population. Therefore, the number taken by Malthus to implement his model does not necessarily have to be perfect because nature is the best source of prediction and assumption the basis for great thinkers and good outcomes for it triggers the urge for research. As a result, while Malthus came up with his model other researchers worked hard to proof him wrong or right and even to date they did not find a wrong calculation or a bogus outcome of his prediction. Hence, the criticism though sound enough do not show any tangible evidence that Malthus growth model gives wrong results which makes ecological theory testable for they follow Malthus model as a platform (Roughgarden, 1998).
Lastly, Malthusian theory relies on data collection to test its hypothesis; thus ecological theories are testable because they rely on data to generate its outcome. This data is derived from the patterns of nature and so Malthus theorizes by using a model which addresses the pattern observed in nature but not the abstract questions of a general nature (cited in Weiner, 1995, pg 4). Theorists fail to address the patterns of nature but deals with abstract questions. However, Malthus clearly shows the pattern of nature can help to deduct data that is testable. By so doing, he is able to show that ecological theories are testable because they use data as used Malthus and still come up with the right outcome though they use prediction in the first place (Kogan,2002).
To conclude, environmental factors influences the fundamental ecological processes in one way or the other, as a result, it is not easy to clearly show how the science of ecology is developing or how predictable is the ecological theory. However, ecological theories are testable and this stems from the Malthusian growth model which shows how environmental factors plays a role in data collection which is used theoretically to produce a hypothesis which can be testable though through observance. This is clear because Malthus theory has variables and parameters like any other testable theory and so the data outcome is more or less substantial and tangible just like any other outcomes. With this in mind my argument still remains that ecological theories are testable because one does not have to be always experimental to argue his scientific discoveries for nature has a role to play in science as well.