Complex systems, trade‐offs, and theoretical population biology: Richard Levin's “strategy of model building in population biology” revisited

Philosophy of Science 70 (5):1496-1507 (2003)
Ecologist Richard Levins argues population biologists must trade‐off the generality, realism, and precision of their models since biological systems are complex and our limitations are severe. Steven Orzack and Elliott Sober argue that there are cases where these model properties cannot be varied independently of one another. If this is correct, then Levins's thesis that there is a necessary trade‐off between generality, precision, and realism in mathematical models in biology is false. I argue that Orzack and Sober's arguments fail since Levins's thesis concerns the pragmatic features of model building not just the formal properties of models.
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DOI 10.1086/377425
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