Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 757–771

Buyer beware: robustness analyses in economics and biology



Theoretical biology and economics are remarkably similar in their reliance on mathematical models, which attempt to represent real world systems using many idealized assumptions. They are also similar in placing a great emphasis on derivational robustness of modeling results. Recently philosophers of biology and economics have argued that robustness analysis can be a method for confirmation of claims about causal mechanisms, despite the significant reliance of these models on patently false assumptions. We argue that the power of robustness analysis has been greatly exaggerated. It is best regarded as a method of discovery rather than confirmation.


Model Idealization Robustness Economics Ecology Game theory 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyLewis and Clark CollegePortlandUSA
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Missouri-St. LouisSt. LouisUSA

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