This article begins with a brief outline of recent advances in the application of computer modeling to sustainability research, identifying important gaps in coverage and associated limits in methodological capability, particularly in regard to taking account of the tangled human factors that are often impediments to a sustainable future. It then describes some of the ways in which a new transdisciplinary approach within “human simulation” can contribute to the further development of sustainability modeling, more effectively addressing such human factors through its emphasis on stakeholder, policy professional, and subject matter expert participation, and its focus on constructing more realistic cognitive architectures and artificial societies. Finally, the article offers philosophical reflections on some of the ontological, epistemological, and ethical issues raised at the intersection of sustainability research and social simulation, considered in light of the importance of human factors, including values and worldviews, in the modeling process. Based on this philosophical analysis, we encourage more explicit conversations about the value of naturalism and secularism in finding and facilitating effective and ethical strategies for sustainable development.
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