Multiple Models, Robustness, and the Epistemology of Climate Science

Doctoral Dissertation


Using case studies from climate science, this dissertation provides an analysis of the value of agreement across models, also known as “robustness.” I argue for four main theses. First, that the use of multiple models is essential to the epistemology of climate science; agreement across such models is an interesting special case, but not the whole story. Second, that agreement across models and agreement across experiments should be given the same analysis. Both are fallible means of raising the probability of a hypothesis. Third, that we can understand robustness in terms of agreement across sources of evidence that vary with regards to the conditions under which they are reliable–and that, in general, such agreement will tend to confirm the agreed-on result. Fourth, and finally, that in cases where there isn’t agreement across models, climate scientists can be understood as using statistical methods to determine what conclusions are justified. Such methods deserve more attention, given that–as I demonstrate–they have hidden or unappreciated presuppositions. The overarching picture is one in which models are a kind of epistemic tool, and our epistemic evaluation of them must take account of the role or purpose to which they are put.


Attribute NameValues
Author Corey Dethier
Contributor Curtis D. Franks, Research Director
Contributor Wendy Parker, Committee Member
Contributor Hannah Rubin, Committee Member
Contributor Don Howard, Committee Member
Contributor Anjan Chakravartty, Research Director
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Philosophy
Degree Name Doctor of Philosophy
Banner Code

Defense Date
  • 2020-01-15

Submission Date 2020-03-04
  • Uncertainty

  • Variation in Evidence

  • Multiple Models

  • Epistemology

  • Robustness

  • Philosophy of Science

  • Philosophy of Climate Science

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units
Catalog Record


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