We review and critique a range of perspectives on the scientific role of indivdiual-based evolutionary simulation models as they are used within artificial life. We find that such models have the potential to enrich existing modelling enterprises through their strength in modelling systems of interacting entities. Furthermore, simulation techniques promise to provide theoreticians in various fields with entirely new conceptual, as well as methodological, approaches. However, the precise manner in which simulations can be used as models is not clear. We present two apparently opposed perspectives on this issue: simulation models as ``emergent computational thought experiements'' and simulation models as realistic simulacra. Through analysing the role that armchair thought experiments play in science, we develop a role for simulation models as opaque thought experiments, that is, thought experiments in which the consequences follow from the premises, but in a non-obvious manner which must be revealed through systematic enquiry. Like their better-known transparent cousins, opaque thought experiments, when understood, result in new insights and conceptual reorganisations. These may stress the current theoretical position of the thought experimenter and engender empirical predictions which must be tested in reality. As such, simulation models, like all thought experiments, are tools with which to explore the consequences of a theoretical position.
|Title of host publication||Artificial Life VII: Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems|
|Editors||Mark A. Bedau, John S. McCaskill, Norman Packard, Steen Rasmussen|
|Publisher||Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Press|
|Number of pages||10|
|Publication status||Published - 2000|