Tools or Toys?
On Specific Challenges for Modeling and the Epistemology of Models in the Social Sciences
3 Why computer simulations are merely models and not experiments
With regards to the nature and epistemic role of computer simulations,
a definite consensus has not yet been reached by philosophers of science.
I do not intend to enter into all the philosophical disputes about
computer simulations. But I'd merely like to defend two positions that
are important in the context of my article:
- Computer simulations are models. Therefore, computer simulations do
not raise any other epistemological questions than models. In particular,
the burden of validation is exactly the same for models and simulations.
- Computer simulations are not experiments. There is a sharp distinction
between computer simulations and models on the one hand side and experiments
on the other hand side. Just like models and theories, computer simulations
belong to the theoretical side of science as opposed to the empirical
side which encompasses experiments, observations and experiences.