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The use of the word 'model' in science

  1. Jul 2, 2016 #1
    It is often said that science is a 'model' of reality out there.

    I think this statement is wrong. It presupposes that there is a reality that is beyond 'modelling'.

    Suppose, someone really finds out the reality 'as it really is'. ( I am not saying there surely is). She would first of all perceive it (may be by a faculty that is beyond the senses) before declaring that it is the real reality and not a model of it.

    This perception (even spiritual perception) is in itself a ' model ' in her brain / mind/spirit of what she is thinking to be absolutely real.

    So, imo, every reality is 'modelling' of one kind or the other.

    Any thoughts?
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2016
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  3. Jul 2, 2016 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    Haven't seen any in this thread yet. It certainly has nothing to do with science when you are going on about "real reality" (as opposed to the unreal kind?) and "spiritual perception."
  4. Jul 2, 2016 #3


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    The engineer thinks his calculations model reality.
    The physicist thinks reality models his calculations.
    The mathematician doesn't care.

    This question is highly semantic at best. It reminds me on the endless debates with creationists who argue about the words "theory" or "model" used in science in order to "prove" it cannot be "reality".
    I've recently read about Bertrand's postulate which is actually a theorem. This shows that one has to take historical and other influences into account when judging certain wordings. With such a question one gets pretty soon into philosophical discussions about reality. As far as I know, even the philosophers didn't find an ultimate answer to it. And they have tried for at least 3,000 years now.
  5. Jul 3, 2016 #4
    People here have not got what I said.

    I suggested that there has to be ' perception' of one kind or the other.

    There can't be anything absolute when seen from this view point.
  6. Jul 3, 2016 #5


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    You used the words "model" - "reality" - "(spiritual) perception" without any connectivity to usage, area of their application or even a definition. However, none of them has one which is commonly accepted. Therefore you open the door to arbitrariness which makes every single eventual answer meaningless or to say it with the famous joke about social scientists: I don't know, but nice that we've talked about.
  7. Jul 4, 2016 #6

    Fervent Freyja

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    Science is a civilized vessel and foundation where people meet to negotiate, agree, and argue what the definitions of reality(knowledge) should be. Less blood that way.
  8. Jul 4, 2016 #7


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    In the phrasing, I'd replace terms like "absolute" and "real reality" with the simple term "nature."

    Nature doesn't "obey" (so to speak) physicists or humans or anybody. Nature does what nature does.

    What physicists attempt to do is "model" nature -- make detailed predictions and such about nature -- using mathematically based models and occasionally making new discoveries in the process. That's what physics is all about.

    And there are many models. Newtonian physics will get you quite far for everyday objects; you can even use simple versions of the model by ignoring things like friction and air resistance if great accuracy isn't required. Or you can add them back in if necessary. Eventually though, if you deal with very fast moving objects or very massive objects, Newtonian physics will fail. In that case, special or general relativity is better suited: and those are different models than Newtonian physics. In the realms of the very small quantum mechanics might be required to make worthy explanations and predictions; and that's yet another model still.
  9. Jul 4, 2016 #8
    Is there an end to it?

    Old theories/models keep on dying, new ones keep on germinating....

    Now, we have dark matter, dark energy and the like......a hotbed for myriad new models/theories..

    Will this end? Will we reach somewhere or just keep on moving...
  10. Jul 4, 2016 #9
    Nobody knows.
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