Experimentation is traditionally considered a privileged means of confirmation. However, why and how experiments form a better confirmatory source relative to other strategies is unclear, and recent discussions have identified experiments with various modeling strategies on the one hand, and with ‘natural’ experiments on the other hand. We argue that experiments aiming to test theories are best understood as controlled investigations of specimens. ‘Control’ involves repeated, fine-grained causal manipulation of focal properties. This capacity generates rich knowledge of the object investigated. ‘Specimenhood’ involves possessing relevant properties given the investigative target and the hypothesis in question. Specimens are thus representative members of a class of systems, to which a hypothesis refers. It is in virtue of both control and specimenhood that experiments provide powerful confirmatory evidence. This explains the distinctive power of experiments: although modelers exert extensive control, they do not exert this control over specimens; although natural experiments utilize specimens, control is diminished.
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- natural experiments