Why Monte Carlo Simulations are Inferences and not Experiments

Publication Year:
2012
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Repository URL:
http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/9238
Author(s):
Beisbart, Claus; Norton, John D.
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preprint description
Monte Carlo Simulations arrive at their results by introducing randomness, sometimes derived from a physical randomizing device. Nonetheless, we argue, they open no new epistemic channels beyond that already employed by traditional simulations: the inference by ordinary argumentation of conclusions from assumptions built into the simulations. We show that Monte Carlo simulations cannot produce knowledge other than by inference; and that they resemble other computer simulations in the manner in which they derive their conclusions. Simple examples of Monte Carlo simulations are analyzed to identify the underlying inferences.