I just returned from the MS4 conference. It is the fourth year that a group of philosophers of science have gathered to try to tease apart the implications of computer simulation in science. My interest in computer simulation is in its uses in ecology (see the abstract for my paper if you are interested), but for me, some of the most captivating work of this kind is being done on climate models, in which simulation is used to try to sort out the implications of our warming planet. Philosophers try to pick out what science is doing, it examines its assumptions and attempts to cut the lines of demarcation between what is good and bad science. Science studies the world, philosophers study the science. Sort of like judicial review in laws (don’t take this too far, scientists hardly ever pay attention to what philosophers are saying).
Several presentations gave harsh criticism of climate science models. Bayesian tools (a statistical technique) were given some especially harsh criticisms. Everyone agreed the models were problematic in some sense or another. That the results were subject to all kinds of errors and suspicions, and there were substantially difficult difficulties to sort out. Several presentations tackled and dissected these problems—Including a nice historical exploration of the use of climate models from the early 70’s until the early 90’s when the consensus was gathering that climate change was real (a few remember the claim of global cooling, which was made because they were only looking at shading from volcanic ash—science quickly made the correction).
These are the people best equipped to look at the adequacy of this modeling effort. Despite this, everyone concurs the models are robust (this is a technical term in philosophy of science that means that multiple independent models, constructed by independent investigators or teams of investigators converge to the same story). No one disagreed that the planet was warming, that we are in for major changes if action is not taken, and that we had best prepare for those changes because they will be substantial.