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Causal Explanation in Laboratory Ecology: The Case of Competitive Indeterminacy

James R. Griesemer
PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association
Vol. 1988, Volume One: Contributed Papers (1988), pp. 337-344
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/193001
Page Count: 8
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Causal Explanation in Laboratory Ecology: The Case of Competitive Indeterminacy
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Abstract

This paper characterizes the role of the experimenter in causal explanations of laboratory phenomena. Causal explanation rests on appeals to the experimenter's efficacy as a causal agent. I contrast "demographic" and "genetic" explanations of stochastic outcomes in a set of competition experiments in ecology. The demographic view ascribes causes to the experimenter's agency in setting up the experiment and to events within the experimental set-up. The genetic view ascribes causes to an unrecognized effect of the experimenter's sampling process prior to the experimental set-up.

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