SREL Reprint #2017





Ecotoxicology as a Science

Michael C. Newman


Science is concerned with creating an intellectual model of the material world. Technology is concerned with procedures and tools and their general use to gain or use knowledge. Practice is concerned with how to treat individual cases. Confusing the three can be dangerous.

Slobodkin and Dykhuizen (1991)

The goal of science is to organize and classify knowledge based on explanatory principles (Nagel, 1961). It follows that the goal of ecotoxicology as a science is the organization of knowledge about the fate and effects of toxicants in ecosystems based on explanatory principles (Newman, 1995). The consistency of this goal with the definition of ecotoxicology originally given by Truhaut (1977) and more recent definitions (e.g., Cairns and Mount, 1990; Jorgensen, 1990) imparts a comforting unanimity during our initial efforts to describe this emerging scientific discipline. Unfortunately, this appearance of consistency passes quickly when this goal is used to judge present activities in ecotoxicology. Inconsistencies arise from the complex interweaving of various scientific, technological, and practical goals within this socially obligated endeavor.

SREL Reprint #2017

Newman, M.C. 1996. Ecotoxicology as a science. p. 1-9. In Ecotoxicology: A Hierarchical Treatment, edited by M.C. Newman and C.H. Jagoe. Lewis Publishers. Chelsea, MI.

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