3 min readOct 11, 2020


Models: 10 Quotes

“The usefulness of the models in constructing a testable theory of the process is severely limited by the quickly increasing number of parameters which must be estimated in order to compare the predictions of the models with empirical results” (Anatol Rapoport, “Prisoner’s Dilemma: A study in conflict and cooperation”, 1965)

“The validation of a model is not that it is ‘true’ but that it generates good testable hypotheses relevant to important problems.” (Richard Levins, “The Strategy of Model Building in Population Biology”, 1966)

“A theory has only the alternative of being right or wrong. A model has a third possibility: it may be right, but irrelevant.” (Manfred Eigen, 1973)

“The aim of the model is of course not to reproduce reality in all its complexity. It is rather to capture in a vivid, often formal, way what is essential to understanding some aspect of its structure or behavior.” (Joseph Weizenbaum, “Computer power and human reason: From judgment to calculation” , 1976)

“The purpose of models is not to fit the data but to sharpen the questions.” (Samuel Karlin, 1983)

“There are those who try to generalize, synthesize, and build models, and there are those who believe nothing and constantly call for more data. The tension between these two groups is a healthy one; science develops mainly because of the model builders, yet they need the second group to keep them honest.” (Andrew Miall, “Principles of Sedimentary Basin Analysis”, 1984)

“The fact that [the model] is an approximation does not necessarily detract from its usefulness because models are approximations. All models are wrong, but some are useful.” (George Box, 1987)

“Model building is the art of selecting those aspects of a process that are relevant to the question being asked. As with any art, this selection is guided by taste, elegance, and metaphor; it is a matter of induction, rather than deduction. High science depends on this art.” (John H Holland,” Hidden Order: How Adaptation Builds Complexity”, 1995)

“We do not learn much from looking at a model — we learn more from building the model and manipulating it. Just as one needs to use or observe the use of a hammer in order to really understand its function, similarly, models have to be used before they will give up their secrets. In this sense, they have the quality of a technology — the power of the model only becomes apparent in the context of its use.” (Margaret Morrison & Mary S Morgan, “Models as mediating instruments”, 1999)

“Effective models require a real world that has enough structure so that some of the details can be ignored. This implies the existence of solid and stable building blocks that encapsulate key parts of the real system’s behavior. Such building blocks provide enough separation from details to allow modeling to proceed.”(John H. Miller & Scott E. Page,” Complex Adaptive Systems: An Introduction to Computational Models of Social Life”, 2007)

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