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The Elusive Basis of Inferential Robustness

James Justus
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 79, No. 5 (December 2012), pp. 795-807
DOI: 10.1086/667902
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/667902
Page Count: 13
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The Elusive Basis of Inferential Robustness
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Abstract

Robustness concepts are often invoked to manage two obstacles confronting models of ecological systems: complexity and uncertainty. The intuitive idea is that any result derived from many idealized but credible models is thereby made more reliable or is better confirmed. An appropriate basis for this inference has proven elusive. Here, several representations of robustness analysis are vetted, paying particular attention to complex models of ecosystems and the global climate. The claim that robustness is itself confirmatory because robustness analysis employs a Bayesian variety-of-evidence argument is criticized, but recent overwhelming pessimism about robustness may have a silver lining.

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