Can we broaden the question – can anyone think of excellent examples of simulation providing explanation in any field (let alone sociology). It seems to me that simulations (at their best) are built on top of pre-existing explanatory theory, they may act as tests of those theories, but in a true Popperian sense, can do little to confirm only perhaps help falsify them. They can also in principle act as predictive models (to the extent that you trust the underlying explanatory theory and the implementation and scope of the simulation). There is a third role for simulation which is in generating the phenomena about which we go on to theorise. This seems to me to be particularly important in sociology because it allows us to be experimental, to control our parameters and to focus on the dynamics of emergent systems in a way that may help us to develop explanatory theory. However, for me, there is a long jump between this role (used as one part of a whole range of empirical methods and looking at real world data) and the simulations themselves providing explanation.


Alan Penn

The Bartlett

University College London


-----Original Message-----
From: News and discussion about computer simulation in the social sciences [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Keming Yang
Sent: 12 November 2003 07:36
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Simulation and Explanation


That's exactly what has been bothering me for a while -- there is a big gap between simulation tools and explanatory power for social phenomena.  I haven't found any excellent examples of sociological explanation using computer simulation.  Please, tell us if you know any.  But on the other hand, isn't this an opportunity for us to make contributions?


Keming Yang

Department of Sociology

University of Reading


----- Original Message -----

From: [log in to unmask]">Thomas Kron

Sent: Wednesday, November 12, 2003 11:07 PM

Subject: Simulation and Explanation


Dear All,


I’m searching for paper about the relation of computer simulation and explanation, especially sociological explanation. I think that sociologists need simulation necessarily if they take the dynamics of interaction more serious (and they should do so if they try to explain using social mechanisms). But I don’t feel really confident about it. Can you help me?


Thank you,


Thomas Kron





Dr. Thomas Kron

University of Hagen

Fleyer Str. 204

58084 Hagen


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