The MSc dissertation that I wrote so many years ago – a decade, almost precisely – that collected and collated research about an axiomatic relationship, between structural complexity and species diversity – still seems relevant and potentially useful, then for ecology, subsequently – currently – for epistemology,.
Environmental structural complexity is believed to be central and crucial to explaining evolutionary and ecological species diversity. Environmental homogenisation favours resource monopolisation by one species (in fi MacArthur’s modelling of organismal maximisation of resource consumption), that eventually exhausts resources, so leading to extinction. Structural complexity denotes the range of environmental features and factors – not necessarily apparent – envisageable as resources effectively supporting ecological species diversity where it persists despite resource depletion. Ecosystems at various scopes and scales exemplify structural complexity in (axiomatic) relationship with species diversity; structure, species, complexity, diversity are interchangeable terms for various aspects and facets of elements and energies in environments and ecosystems.
Epistemology – the attempt to identify reliable cognitive and/or cosmological structures (for) determining the strict truth of any proposition, and to indicate conditions in which such structures (and strictures) may be bypassed, subverted or obviated – itself exists within ecosystemic conditions and constraints – conventional structures of establishing knowledge and truth, complex means of verification or falsification of any proposition, recognised species of approach to underlying values and validities, diverse justifications.
Ecology as metaphor and model is paradigmatic for all evolving ecosystems, including sociocultural ecosystems of thoughts and beliefs in modelling epistemic relations of a suite of experiences to an accumulated arguably authoritative ‘experience’ and a set of expedients to an accustomed assertedly authoritarian ‘expedience’.
‘Experience’ and ‘expedience’ here refer both to empirical and experimental evidence and its assertedly valid and reliable explanation in terms of rules of and for ecology and evolution, and to inductive and deductive inference and its assertedly virtuous and rigorous explication in terms of rules of and for knowledge in science and technology.
In particular the underlying assertion and underpinning assumption is progressivist – that somehow each successive model more closely approximates truth to reality. The thesis then and now is that there is neither any way to know reality, nor any reality to know. What humans do is ‘join the dots’ of their experiences and then call it experience. Modelling of any and every sort is just this – recording and qualifying and quantifying experiences by various categories and criteria, and finding ways to join the dots in some or several seemingly comprehensive, consistent and coherent ways then proposed to be accurate models of what happens, the outworking operation of inherent rules and laws. Models are displaced and replaced by successive attempts to join more of the dots; some succeeding models retain parts of the preceding joining-up of dots but replace others, some replace the whole; occasionally the preceding model is retained as proxy surrogate. An example of this is the Bernouilli effect, which is an explanation of forces for flying only within certain size, weight and speed parameters for aircraft for reasons not yet understood. Another example is the problem with scaling up some ecological models.
An example is geocentrism in its centuries-long paradigm-shift passage to heliocentrism: theoretical and technical sociocultural-conventional, cognitive and cosmological issues – cosmological in both physics and metaphysics* senses – had to be resolved before a viable and so by extension valid heliocentric solar system model could be accepted and adopted – and occasionally it is still as or potentially even more effective and efficient to apply a geocentric celestial navigation model. (*Yes, metaphysics is a term that would not have been recognisable or comprehensible to Greek or other classical philosophers.)
Another example is the development of evolutionary theory: developing frameworks of natural history, natural philosophy and natural law and natural theology assembled a materialist mechanical model for an empirical scientific worldview in which in-built law-ruled behaviours govern both experienced phenomena and phenomenal experience.
The doctrinaire articulation and dogmatic application of determinist-necessitarian views to various spheres of experience continued in many fields of study, means ‘laws’ – really models – are formulated for one or a few fields then applied to or across disparate fields.