The University of Sussex

Artificial life as theoretical biology: how to do real science with computer simulation

Geoffrey E. Miller

A-Life research offers, among other things, a new style of computer simulation for understanding biological systems and processes. But most current A-Life work does not show enough methodological sophistication to count as good theoretical biology. As a first step towards developing a stronger methodology for A-Life, this paper (1) identifies some methodological pitfalls arising from the 'computer science influence' in A-Life, (2) suggests some methodological heuristics for A-Life as theoretical biology, (3) notes the strengths of A-Life methods versus previous research methods in biology, (4) examines some open questions in theoretical biology that may benefit from A-Life simulation, and (5) argues that the debate over 'Strong A-Life' is not relevant to A-Life's utility for theoretical biology.

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