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The Problems in Modeling Nature

is the title of an article today in the Science section of the NY Times. It’s a report of a b ook called “Why Environmental Scientists Can’t Predict the Future.”

Here are a few excerpts:

“They also discuss concepts like model sensitivity — the analysis of parameters included in a model to see which ones, if changed, are most likely to change model results.

But, the authors say it is important to remember that model sensitivity assesses the parameter’s importance in the model, not necessarily in nature. If a model itself is “a poor representation of reality,” they write, “determining the sensitivity of an individual parameter in the model is a meaningless pursuit.” …

Besides, they acknowledge, people seem to have such a powerful desire to defend policies with formulas (or “fig leaves,” as the authors call them), that managers keep applying them, long after their utility has been called into question …

Models should be regarded as producing “ballpark figures,” they write, not accurate impact forecasts.

Published in Models