Mechanistic Models and the Explanatory Limits of Machine Learning

Abstract

We argue that mechanistic models elaborated by machine learning cannot be explanatory by discussing the relation between mechanistic models, explanation and the notion of intelligibility of models. We show that the ability of biologists to understand the model that they work with severely constrains their capacity of turning the model into an explanatory model. The more a mechanistic model is complex, the less explanatory it will be. Since machine learning increases its performances when more components are added, then it generates models which are not intelligible, and hence not explanatory.

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