Human ecology

Population thinking

"The assumptions of population are diametrically opposed to those of the typologist. The populationist stresses th uniqueness of everything in the organic world. What is true for the human species, that no two individuals are alike, is equally true for all other species of animals and plants... All organisms and organic phenomena are composed of unique features and can be described collectively only in statistical terms. Individuals, or any kind of organic entities, form populations of which we can determine the arithmetic mean and the statistics of variation. Averages are merely statistical abstractions; only the individuals of which the populations are composed have any reality. the ultimate conclusions of the population thinker and the typologist are precisely the opposite. For the typologist, the type (eidos) is real and the variation an illusion, while for the populationist the type (average) is an abstraction and only the variation is real. No two ways of looking at nature could be more different. (Mayr, 1959b)"

Quoted in Mayr (1967: 1970, pp.4-5)

Mayr identifies the positions of typologist and populationist with those of essentialist and non-essentialist (1997). Criticisms of biology that classify biology as essentialist must take Mayr's identification into account. (Dennett also makes a similar distinction)


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Created 17/2/00
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