Statistics and the Scientific Method in Ecology

Brian Dennis

in The Nature of Scientific Evidence

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2004 | ISBN: 9780226789552
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226789583 | DOI:
Statistics and the Scientific Method in Ecology

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The questioning of science and the scientific method continues within the science of ecology. The use of Bayesian statistical analysis has recently been advocated in ecology, supposedly to aid decision makers and enhance the pace of progress. Bayesian statistics provides conclusions in the face of incomplete information. However, Bayesian statistics represents a much different approach to science than the frequentist statistics studied by most ecologists. This chapter discusses the influence of postmodernism and relativism on the scientific process and in particular its implications, through the use of subjective Bayesian approach, in statistical inference. It argues that subjective Bayesianism is “tobacco science” and that its use in ecological analysis and environmental policy making can be dangerous. It claims that science works through replicability and skepticism, with methods considered ineffective until they have proven their worth. It proposes the use of a frequentist approach to statistical analysis because it corresponds to the skeptical worldview of scientists.

Keywords: Bayesian statistics; ecology; science; scientific method; frequentist statistics; postmodernism; relativism; statistical inference; statistical analysis; Bayesianism

Chapter.  21718 words. 

Subjects: Animal Pathology and Diseases

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