Models and muddles

Some philosophical observations
  • J. W. Hedgpeth
General Aspects


The first model in marine ecology was that of the biocoenosis by Moebius (1883), conceived as a self-contained box limited by a finite food resource. This box was almost immediately broken bown by Dean (1893) and demonstrated to be a bit of a muddle, but the concept and the general term has persisted. Today, the construction of elaborate diagrams and mystico-mathematical representations of assumed relationships powered by selected values is a favorite pastime of many ecologists and “environmental engineers”. When taken with a grain of salt (preferably benzoate of soda), such models may stimulate further thought. Fisheries biologists have had some success with single species or paucispecific models, but complex models require simplification and selection of data unrepresentative of nature. A model which is simply an elaborate mathematical summary of a textbook does not tell us much more than we allready know, and its formulation involves a questionable diversion of funds.


Soda Waste Water Water Management Water Pollution Complex Model 

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Copyright information

© Biologische Anstalt Helgoland 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. W. Hedgpeth
    • 1
  1. 1.Santa RosaUSA

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