What Kind of Science is Simulation?

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Is simulation some new kind of science? We argue that instead simulation fits smoothly into existing scientific practice, but does so in several importantly different ways. Simulations in general, and computer simulations in particular, ought to be understood as techniques which, like many scientific techniques, can be employed in the service of various and diverse epistemic goals. We focus our attentions on the way in which simulations can function as (i) explanatory and (ii) predictive tools. We argue that a wide variety of simulations, both computational and physical, are best conceived in terms of a set of common features: initial or input conditions, a mechanism or set of rules, and a set of results or output conditions. Studying simulations in these terms yields a new understanding of their character as well as a body of normative recommendations for the care and feeding of scientific simulations.
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Archival date: 2021-03-07
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