these unified theories have arrived with relatively little fanfare… [Quote]

…in the last 10 years ecology, specifically macroecology, has produced not one, but at least half a dozen different unified theories of biodiversity. These theories broadly unify ideas of area, abundance and richness to produce from a few underlying principles such seemingly distinct patterns as the species–area curve and the species abundance distribution. With one exception (neutral theory), these unified theories have arrived with relatively little fanfare. Unlike physics, unification has not been heralded as one of the highest achievements in ecology. No doubt this is in part due to certain sociological tendencies in ecology which fail to appreciate theory in general and especially theory that greatly simplifies the natural world (Kingsland 1995; Simberloff 2004).

– Brian McGill (in McGill 2010 published in Ecology Letters)

Earlier this year we featured this great paper by Brian McGill in our first Things you should read post. I was rereading it for a graduate seminar tomorrow and couldn’t help but post this great, beautifully dry, quote.

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