Abstract for: The Scientist Personality of System Dynamics

The System Dynamics (SD) community frequently seems to defend and to protect its “scientific” status by recurring to scientific principles. In fact, the philosophy of science has been the place to identify the philosophical standing of System Dynamics. However, SD typically aims at designing artifacts of different types, e.g. models, policies, plans, organizational schemes, etc. that address a specific situation that is wanted to be improved. Such an attitude is the trademark of engineering, a stance that is easy to see in the underpinnings of the field that Jay Forrester shaped. This paper shows why the epistemological stance of SD finds its natural ground in the philosophy of engineering. Moreover, the best defense of SD against its critics is to hoist its engineering flag, once this is done, the questions of the “scientific status” of SD, with all the demands that come from such a concern, e.g. validation, confirmation of knowledge, truth of statements, scientific method, predictability, generalizability, replicability, empirical basis, etc. become truly irrelevant.