Tipping the scale toward “science”

Marceau’s sums up issues pertaining to the variability in scale including scale dependence, scale domains and scale thresholds. At the crux of the article is an illustration of “a shift in paradigm where entities, patterns and processes are considered as intrinsically linked to the particular scale at which they can be distinguished and defined” (Marceau 1999). The need in any science to be wary of the scale at which the given work is conducted or phenomenon observed is absolutely (and relatively) critical. Different phenomena occur at different scales, and significant inaccuracies in the data exist if this is not accounted for.

I have no qualms with most of Marceau’s article. However, I would like to address another little assertion the author makes in her conclusion: the shift in paradigm once more toward a “science of scale.” After our discussion a few weeks ago regarding rethinking GIS as a science, in addition to a tool, this struck me as particularly interesting. In its broadest sense, science is a body of rationally explained and testable knowledge. Understanding scale as a scientific field in this regard is difficult. I have no problem with comprehending and accepting scale as a basic property of science, but separating out scale as its own entity?

That said, accounting for all of the work involved in understanding thresholds and dependence and the role that a varying scale can play on the world is not trivial. I simply feel that whereas there are laws of physics, for instance, there is no singular body of accepted knowledge, as far as I know, surrounding scale, with the exception that scale is a property of a phenomenon that must be noted and maintained as much as possible.

– JMonterey

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