Skip navigation
Skip navigation

Brave New Worlds: How computer simulation changes model-based science

Walmsley, Lachlan

Description

A large part of science involves building and investigating models. One key feature of model-based science is that one thing is studied as a means of learning about some rather different thing. How scientists make inferences from a model to the world, then, is a topic of great interest to philosophers of science. An increasing number of models are specified with very complex computer programs. In this thesis, I examine the epistemological issues that arise when scientists use these computer...[Show more]

dc.contributor.authorWalmsley, Lachlan
dc.date.accessioned2022-06-06T07:34:11Z
dc.date.available2022-06-06T07:34:11Z
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/1885/267161
dc.description.abstractA large part of science involves building and investigating models. One key feature of model-based science is that one thing is studied as a means of learning about some rather different thing. How scientists make inferences from a model to the world, then, is a topic of great interest to philosophers of science. An increasing number of models are specified with very complex computer programs. In this thesis, I examine the epistemological issues that arise when scientists use these computer simulation models to learn about the world or to think through their ideas. I argue that the explosion of computational power over the last several decades has revolutionised model-based science, but that restraint and caution must be exercised in the face of this power. To make my arguments, I focus on two kinds of computer simulation modelling: climate modelling and, in particular, high-fidelity climate models; and agent-based models, which are used to represent populations of interacting agents often in an ecological or social context. Both kinds involve complex model structures and are representative of the beneficial capacities of computer simulation. However, both face epistemic costs that follow from using highly complex model structures. As models increase in size and complexity, it becomes far harder for modellers to understand their models and why they behave the way they do. The value of models is further obscured by their proliferation, and a proliferation of programming languages in which they can be described. If modellers struggle to grasp their models, they can struggle to make good inferences with them. While the climate modelling community has developed much of the infrastructure required to mitigate these epistemic costs, the less mature field of agent-based modelling is still struggling to implement such community standards and infrastructure. I conclude that modellers cannot take full advantage of the representational capacities of computer simulations unless resources are invested into their study that scale proportionately with the models' complexity.
dc.language.isoen_AU
dc.titleBrave New Worlds: How computer simulation changes model-based science
dc.typeThesis (PhD)
local.contributor.supervisorSterelny, Kim
local.contributor.supervisorcontactu8401578@anu.edu.au
dc.date.issued2022
local.identifier.doi10.25911/BHT0-ZW45
local.identifier.proquestYes
local.thesisANUonly.authoraf1b23f3-1309-4261-89db-51044656fae8
local.thesisANUonly.title000000015487_TC_1
local.thesisANUonly.key92764a56-57bf-7a71-65b7-deb0af8eb368
local.mintdoimint
CollectionsOpen Access Theses

Download

File Description SizeFormat Image
Brave new worlds_2022.pdfThesis Material1.9 MBAdobe PDFThumbnail


Items in Open Research are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.

Updated:  19 May 2020/ Responsible Officer:  University Librarian/ Page Contact:  Library Systems & Web Coordinator