Weisberg, Michael

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Now showing 1 - 10 of 18
  • Publication
    The Intelligent Design Controversy: Lesson From Psychology and Education
    (2006-02-01) Lombrozo, Tania; Shtulman, Andrew; Weisberg, Michael
    The current debate over whether to teach Intelligent Design creationism in American public schools provides the rare opportunity to watch the interaction between scientific knowledge and intuitive beliefs play out in courts rather than cortex. While it’s easy to believe the controversy stems only from ignorance about evolution, a closer look confirms what decades of research in cognitive and social psychology have already taught us: that the relationship between understanding a claim and believing a claim is far from simple. Research in education and psychology confirms that a majority of college students fail to understand evolutionary theory, but also finds no support for a relationship between understanding evolutionary theory and accepting it as true [1, 2]. We believe the intuitive appeal of Intelligent Design owes as much to misconceptions about science and morality as it does to misconceptions about evolution. To support this position we present a brief tour of misconceptions: evolutionary, scientific, and moral.
  • Publication
    Understanding the Emergence of Population Behavior in Individual-Based Models
    (2014-12-01) Weisberg, Michael
    Proponents of individual-based modeling in ecology claim that their models explain the emergence of population-level behavior. This article argues that individual-based models have not, as yet, provided such explanations. Instead, individual-based models can and do demonstrate and explain the emergence of population-level behaviors from individual behaviors and interactions.
  • Publication
    Three Kinds of Idealization
    (2007-12-01) Weisberg, Michael
    Philosophers of science increasingly recognize the importance of idealization: the intentional introduction of distortion into scientific theories. Yet this recognition has not yielded consensus about the nature of idealization. Thee literature of the past thirty years contains disparate characterizations and justifications, but little evidence of convergence towards a common position.
  • Publication
    Robustness Analysis
    (2006-12-01) Weisberg, Michael
    Modelers often rely on robustness analysis, the search for predictions common to several independent models. Robustness analysis has been characterized and championed by Richard Levins and William Wimsatt, who see it as central to modern theoretical practice. The practice has also been severely criticized by Steven Orzack and Elliott Sober, who claim that it is a nonempirical form of confirmation, effective only under unusual circumstances. This paper addresses Orzack and Sober’s criticisms by giving a new account of robustness analysis and showing how the practice can identify robust theorems. Once the structure of robust theorems is clearly articulated, it can be shown that such theorems have a degree of confirmation, despite the lack of direct empirical evidence for their truth.
  • Publication
    New Approaches to the Division of Cognitive Labor
    (2010-01-01) Weisberg, Michael
    Scientists are not lone agents, cut off from the outside world, responding only to information generated in their own laboratories. Rather, they make decisions about what to investigate by integrating what they discover for themselves with what they learn from others. They also take into account external factors such as grants, prizes, and prestige. These sources of feedback lead scientists to coordinate and divide their resources among differing approaches to the research domain. This coordination seems to enhance the success of scientific communities, but this coordination is neither planned nor explicit. Philip Kitcher has called this fact about scientific communities the division of cognitive labor.
  • Publication
    The Structure of Tradeoffs in Model Building
    (2009-09-01) Matthewson, John; Weisberg, Michael
    Despite their best efforts, scientists may be unable to construct models that simultaneously exemplify every theoretical virtue. One explanation for this is the existence of tradeoffs: relationships of attenuation that constrain the extent to which models can have such desirable qualities. In this paper, we characterize three types of tradeoffs theorists may confront. These characterizations are then used to examine the relationships between parameter precision and two types of generality. We show that several of these relationships exhibit tradeoffs and discuss what consequences those tradeoffs have for theoretical practice.
  • Publication
    Qualitative Theory and Chemical Explanation
    (2004-12-01) Weisberg, Michael
    Roald Hoffmann and other theorists claim that we ought to use highly idealized chemical models (“qualitative models”) in order to increase our understanding of chemical phenomena, even though other models are available which make more highly accurate predictions. I assess this norm by examining one of the tradeoffs faced by model builders and model users—the tradeoff between precision and generality. After arguing that this tradeoff obtains in many cases, I discuss how the existence of this tradeoff can help us defend Hoffmann’s norm for modelling.
  • Publication
    The Robust Volterra Principle
    (2008-01-01) Weisberg, Michael; Reisman, Kenneth
    Theorizing in ecology and evolution often proceeds via the construction of multiple idealized models. To determine whether a theoretical result actually depends on core features of the models and is not an artifact of simplifying assumptions, theorists have developed the technique of robustness analysis, the examination of multiple models looking for common predictions. A striking example of robustness analysis in ecology is the discovery of the Volterra Principle, which describes the effect of general biocides in predator‐prey systems. This paper details the discovery of the Volterra Principle and the demonstration of its robustness. It considers the classical ecology literature on robustness and introduces two individual‐based models of predation, which are used to further analyze the Volterra Principle. The paper also introduces a distinction between parameter robustness, structural robustness, and representational robustness, and demonstrates that the Volterra Principle exhibits all three kinds of robustness.
  • Publication
    Morton, Gould, and Bias: A Comment on "The Mismeasure of Science"
    (2016-04-19) Weisberg, Michael; Paul, Diane B
    Stephen Jay Gould famously used the work of Samuel George Morton (1799–1851) to illustrate how unconscious racial bias could affect scientific measurement. Morton had published measurements of the average cranial capacities of different races, measurements that Gould reanalyzed in an article in Science [1] and then later in his widely read book The Mismeasure of Man [2]. During the course of this reanalysis, Gould discovered prima facie evidence of unconscious racial bias in Morton’s measurements. More than 30 years later, Lewis et al. published a critique of this analysis [3], denying that Morton’s measurements were biased by his racism. Instead, they claim that their “results falsify Gould’s hypothesis that Morton manipulated his data to conform with his a priori views.” We believe this is mistaken, and our comment will explain why.
  • Publication
    Challenges to the Structural Conception of Bonding
    (2008-12-01) Weisberg, Michael
    The covalent bond, a difficult concept to define precisely, plays a central role in chemical predictions, interventions, and explanations. I investigate the structural conception of the covalent bond, which says that bonding is a directional, submolecular region of electron density, located between individual atomic centers and responsible for holding the atoms together. Several approaches to constructing molecular models are considered in order to determine which features of the structural conception of bonding, if any, are robust across these models. Key components of the structural conception are absent in all but the simplest quantum mechanical models of molecular structure, seriously challenging the conception’s viability.