When good theories make bad predictions

Synthese 157 (1):79 - 103 (2007)
Chaos-related obstructions to predictability have been used to challenge accounts of theory validation based on the agreement between theoretical predictions and experimental data . These challenges are incomplete in two respects: they do not show that chaotic regimes are unpredictable in principle and, as a result, that there is something conceptually wrong with idealized expectations of correct predictions from acceptable theories, and they do not explore whether chaos-induced predictive failures of deterministic models can be remedied by stochastic modeling. In this paper we appeal to an asymptotic analysis of state space trajectories and their numerical approximations to show that chaotic regimes are deterministically unpredictable even with unbounded resources. Additionally, we explain why stochastic models of chaotic systems, while predictively successful in some cases, are in general predictively as limited as deterministic ones. We conclude by suggesting that the way in which scientists deal with such principled obstructions to predictability calls for a more comprehensive approach to theory validation, on which experimental testing is augmented by a multifaceted mathematical analysis of theoretical models, capable of identifying chaos-related predictive failures as due to principled limitations which the world itself imposes on any less-than-omniscient epistemic access to some natural systems
Keywords Chaos  Computational models  Dynamical systems  Predictability  Probability density  State space  Discretization  Stochastic models  Theory confirmation
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.2307/27653544
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 16,667
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Alan Turing (1936). On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem. Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society 42 (1):230-265.
Peter Smith (1998). Explaining Chaos. Cambridge University Press.
Robert W. Batterman (1993). Defining Chaos. Philosophy of Science 60 (1):43-66.

View all 13 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

64 ( #53,310 of 1,726,249 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

10 ( #66,646 of 1,726,249 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.