The method of multiple working hypotheses, developed by the 19th-century geologist T. C. Chamberlin, is an important philosophical contribution to the domain of hypothesis construction in science. Indeed, the concept is particularly pertinent to recent debate over the relative merits of two different statistical paradigms: null hypothesis testing and model selection. The theoretical foundations of model selection are often poorly understood by practitioners of null hypothesis testing, and even many proponents of Chamberlin's method may not fully appreciate its historical basis. We contend that the core of Chamberlin's message, communicated over a century ago, has often been forgotten or misrepresented. Therefore, we revisit his ideas in light of modern developments. The original source has great value to contemporary ecology and many related disciplines, communicating thoughtful consideration of both complexity and causality and providing hard-earned wisdom applicable to this new age of uncertainty.
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Vol. 57 • No. 7