Message in the Bottle: The Constraints of Experimentation on Model Building

Philosophy of Science 73 (5):720-729 (2006)
(Total word count 2,647) I. Introduction. Given the work of Robert MacArthur and his followers, some skeptical ecologists charge that theoretical modeling building has gone evidentially unconstrained. That is, models are often constructed which resist empirical testing. In this essay, I argue that “bottle experiments” do provide model building with important evidential constraints using an example of chaos producing models that have been tested against the dynamics of flour beetle populations. Critics reply however that this and other bottle experiments are importantly unlike and irrelevant to non-manipulated systems in nature. I provide two possible responses to this view. Finally, I provide a practical suggestion for how to move the debate forward.
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