The simple observation that most models are oversimplified, approximate, incomplete, and in other ways false gives little reason for using them. Their widespread use suggests that there must be other reasons.

- William Wimsatt¹

  1. I was feeling a bit grumpy when I wrote this.
  2. There is a deep similarity between empirical and theoretical work.²
  1. I am not as clever as I think I am.
  2. Models are useful because of their simplicity, not despite it.
  3. There are deep similarities between models and experiments.
  4. There is a large, interdisciplinary body of work that we can draw on to hone our intuitions about models. This could prove useful as we continue to have productive discussions about the role of theoretical models in the metascientific enterprise.
  1. Wimsatt, William C. “False models as means to truer theories.” Neutral models in biology (1987): 23–55. http://mechanism.ucsd.edu/teaching/models/Wimsatt.falsemodels.pdf
  2. Mäki, Uskali. “Models are experiments, experiments are models.” Journal of Economic Methodology 12.2 (2005): 303–315. https://doi.org/10.1080/13501780500086255
  3. Kokko, Hanna. Modelling for field biologists and other interesting people. Cambridge University Press, 2007. p. 8–9. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511811388
  4. Smaldino, Paul E. “How to translate a verbal theory into a formal model.” Social Psychology 51.4 (2020): 207. p. 1. https://doi.org/10.1027/1864-9335/a000425

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Leo Tiokhin, PhD

Leo Tiokhin, PhD

Research and data scientist slowly crawling from academia to industry. I like honest people. Learn more at https://www.leotiokhin.com/