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Dreamers, Visionaries, and Revolutionaries in the Life Sciences$
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Oren Harman and Michael R. Dietrich

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226569871

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226570075.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 28 July 2021

Stephen Hubbell and the Paramount Power of Randomness

Stephen Hubbell and the Paramount Power of Randomness

(p.176) 11 Stephen Hubbell and the Paramount Power of Randomness
Dreamers, Visionaries, and Revolutionaries in the Life Sciences

Philippe Huneman

University of Chicago Press

Stephen Hubbell ‘s Unified Neutral Theory of Biodiversity and Biogeography (2001) is a milestone in theoretical ecology. In this book, Hubbell argued for the provocative, many thought - fantastic - idea that stochastic processes ultimately govern the mechanisms underlying biodiversity patterns in ecology. This idea, and its explication in terms of sophisticated mathematical models, shook the world of ecology, which was used to thinking of niche effects and natural selection as the ultimate reasons for biodiversity patterns. This chapter argues that the neutral theory not only brings about a new viewpoint in ecology – in the sense of a novel alternative hypothesis, to which previous theoretical standpoints should be compared – but a new and bold methodological attitude. The chapter characterizes this attitude by highlighting first, the role played by mathematical modeling and, second, commenting on the role played by the search for unity and theoretical unification in ecology both in Hubbell’s thinking and more generally in the history of ecology that he inherited.

Keywords:   Stephen Hubbell, biodiversity, biogeography, theoretical ecology, stochastic processes, mathematical modeling, neutral theory

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