Using Models to Correct Data: Paleodiversity and the Fossil Record

Synthese (forthcoming)
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Abstract
Despite an enormous philosophical literature on models in science, surprisingly little has been written about data models and how they are constructed. In this paper, I examine the case of how paleodiversity data models are constructed from the fossil data. In particular, I show how paleontologists are using various model-based techniques to correct the data. Drawing on this research, I argue for the following related theses: First, the 'purity' of a data model is not a measure of its epistemic reliability. Instead it is the fidelity of the data that matters. Second, the fidelity of a data model in capturing the signal of interest is a matter of degree. Third, the fidelity of a data model can be improved 'vicariously', such as through the use of post hoc model-based correction techniques. And, fourth, data models, like theoretical models, should be assessed as adequate (or inadequate) for particular purposes.
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Archival date: 2018-05-18
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2018-05-18

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