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Re: [ontolog-forum] Truth

To: edbark@xxxxxxxx, "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Chris Menzel <chris.menzel@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 13 Jul 2012 19:03:28 -0500
Message-id: <CAO_JD6PabDvw600=nPotC6oZX1MSnSBq_FciOL66e2tG4-i4wg@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>

On Fri, Jul 13, 2012 at 6:22 PM, Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx> wrote:

Chris Menzel wrote:
Who said anything about exact representation? My claim is only that models/theories can get the world right as far as they go.
That would run into quantum mechanical effects, and an
impossibly large amount of data.  Approximations are the norm.
As engineers say, "All models are wrong, but some are useful."

It's a stupid slogan. Models are useful (typically) because they get the world right to some extent, at some level of granularity. If that weren'tt so, their usefulness would be a complete mystery.

John's earlier point was that a model gets some aspect of the world right.  That, as Chris says, is what makes it useful. I think the problem is that 'approximation' is a poor word for the relationship of the model to the thing/world.  The model accurately renders some subset of the properties of the thing/world. 

I am, however, reminded of a colleague's long-standing email tag quotation:
"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

But that really says only that a model has a purpose.  The subset of properties of the thing/world that it captures must be the "right" subset for that purpose, and any other subset is useless for the purpose.  Deming's "all models are wrong" simply admits that a model intentionally misrenders aspects not relevant to the purpose.  And a formal logic "model" simply omits them.

Thanks for the excellent post, Ed. I apologize for my inflammatory rhetoric. But it is precisely because the slogan runs roughshod over exactly the points you make in your final paragraph above that I find it so irritating. It's catchy, but not so as to be illuminating or helpful, but rather misleading.


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