• Charbel Niño El-Hani Universidade Federal da Bahia


Biological knowledge, Theorical net, Epistemology, Methodology.


In recent years, several studies about the issue of the existence and status of laws in ecology have been published. This paper is a review which intends to play the role of a critical study guide to the debates about ecological generalizations. A series of studies about generalizations in ecology are critically discussed, as well as some developments of the epistemological discussion about the status of biological laws in the last fifteen years. My position is that biology has generalizations with some degree of nomic necessity and explanatory and/or predictive power. No matter if they are called ‘laws' or not, they play an important role in the construction of biological knowledge and should be investigated in order to give room to a better understanding of their nature and characteristics. Biological generalizations have a restricted domain of application, and a sufficiently developed theoretical understanding is required in order to reach a general abstract scheme for establishing these domains. Therefore, the construction of ecological (and, generally speaking, biological) theories is the way to establish testable generalizations with explanatory and predictive power. Those are not properties that a statement can have in isolation, but only as a member of an integrated set of assertions or a theoretical network, in which each member helps delimiting the domain of application of every other member. This epistemological conception about the relationships and nature of general statements and theories in biology, and, in particular, ecology, has methodological implications, which are addressed in this study.