An antidote for hawkmoths: a response to recent climate-skeptical arguments grounded in the topology of dynamical systems

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Navas, Alejandro; Nabergall, Lukas; Winsberg, Eric
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In a series of recent papers, two of which appeared in this journal, a group of philosophers, physicists, and climate scientists have argued that something they call the `hawkmoth effect' poses insurmountable difficulties for those who would use non-linear models, including climate simulation models, to make quantitative predictions or to produce `decision-relevant probabilites.' Such a claim, if it were true, would undermine much of climate science, among other things. Here, we examine the two lines of argument the group has used to support their claims. The first comes from a set of results in dynamical systems theory associated with the concept of `structural stability.' The second relies on a mathematical demonstration of their own, using the logistic equation, that they present using a hypothetical scenario involving two apprentices of Laplace's omniscient demon. We prove two theorems that are relevant to their claims, and conclude that both of these lines of argument fail. There is nothing out there that comes close to matching the charac