[Quote] Model Skeptics

From IMS Bulletin Vol. 36(3), p.11, Terence’s Stuff: Model skeptics

[Once I quoted an article by Prof. Terry Speed in IMS Bulletin: Data-Doctors. Reading his columns in the IMS Bulletin provides me an opportunity to reflect who I am as a statistician and some guidance for treating data. Although his ideas were not from astronomy or astronomical data analysis, I often find his thoughts and words can be shared with astronomers.]

“What’s the question (this model is supposed to help us answer)?” I want to shout. More politely, Samuel Karlin once said “The purpose of models is not to fit the data but to sharpen the question”. Or, John Tukey: “Our focus should be on questions, not models…Models can – and will – get us in deep trouble if we expect them to tell us what the unique proper questions are.

We’ve all heard George Box’s quaqua-versal quotation “All models are wrong, some models are useful”, and I agree with the second half. But where do we find out which models are useful and which aren’t, which are appropriate and which aren’t? You’d think there must be lots of examples; do you know one?

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