When I was in graduate school, Mathew Leibold, a fellow graduate student and one of my best friends (and now Professor of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Texas, Austin), asked me one of the hardest questions I’ve ever been asked. I don’t remember his exact wording, but the question was to explain to him why my research was not trivial.
George Carlin really understood the relationship between humans and the Earth!
He must have been a paleontologist.
A paper in Ecology Letters describes a “unification” of the six unified theories of ecology (doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2010.01449.x). I didn’t know we had six “unified” theories to start with. (How can there be more than one “unified” theory? But that’s beside the point.)
I came into the science of ecology during the mid-1980’s. This was a time when ecologists were learning the lesson that one cannot simply go out and collect observational data to test hypotheses. Proving that species compete by demonstrating Hutchinsonian ratios proved to be a rather futile endeavor, to say the least. The problem is that many different causal mechanisms can create the same general pattern in the data that one collects.