Friday, March 30, 2012

All Models are Wrong. . .

I spent the last three days in a simulation class.  The class was to teach us to create models and run FEA (finite element analysis) studies so that we might solve various mechanical engineering problems.

One of the first things the teacher told us was that, “all models are wrong.”  He was speaking of computer models relationship to physical objects, but my mind has stayed on this topic and has continued to explore it beyond computer models.  He emphasized this, so that we could keep it foremost in our minds when doing computer simulations, that physical objects are only approximated by computer models and must have limitations and flaws in their representation of reality.

“All Models are Wrong”. . . it comes to me that our mental image of the world is another model.  We have a mental model of the entirety of our interaction with the universe we live in, and it must be recognized that our mental image is not reality, but only a model of reality.  We can only create a mental model in terms of what we know. . . the data of which we are aware.  We must recognize that we surely do not know everything about anything.  And in fact we know so little about even those elements in our lives that are quite familiar.

I’ve been with my wife Jackie, for more than twenty years and while she is greatly familiar to me, to my rather constant edification (I cease to be surprised), I continue to learn things about her, which show how lacking in completeness my mental model of her is. . . How much more than this must my model of our infinite God fall short of His reality. . . I must keep the awareness of how greatly similar I am to a blind man examining an elephant. . . In that wise old story we laugh at each blind man’s description of the elephant in terms of what he has familiarity with. . . the one who touches the elephant’s tail describing the elephant as a rope. . . while the one who feels the elephant’s side, describing it as the side of a barn. . . In reality we are all as blind men, but with the danger that we have functioning eyes and therefore think we can see. . . In truth, we see so little.  We see what we choose to see. . . We see what is chosen to be shown. . . We are blind to all else. . .

This recognition brings both humility and wisdom. . . My thought of anything is not the reality of it, but only a poor model of it. . . and all models are wrong. . .

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