Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Philosophy

Supervisor

Professor Wayne C. Myrvold

Abstract

The goal of this dissertation is to contribute to the epistemology of science by addressing a set of related questions arising from current discussions in the philosophy and science of climate change: (1) Given the imperfection of computer models, how do they provide information about large and complex target systems? (2) What is the relationship between consilient reasoning and robust evidential support in the production of scientific knowledge? (3) Does taking the mean of a set of model outputs provide epistemic advantages over using the output of a single ‘best model’? Synthesizing research in philosophy and science, the thesis analyzes connections among consilient inductions, robustness analysis, and the aggregation of various sources of evidence, including computer simulations, by investigating case studies of climate change that exemplify the strength of consilient reasoning and the security of robust evidential support. It also explains the rationale and epistemic conditions for improving estimates by averaging multiple estimates, comparing a simple case of averaging estimates to practices in multi-model ensemble studies. I argue: (A) the concepts of consilience and robustness account for the strength and security of inferences that rely on imperfect computer modelling methods, (B) consilient reasoning is conducive to attaining robust evidential support, and (C) an analogy can explain why averaging the outputs of multiple models can improve estimates of a target system, given that conditions of model independence, skill and unequal weighting are taken into account.


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