Created Monday 29 June 2020
I’ve despaired in the past about some of the uses and abuses of models in research and, in particular, as blunt political instruments used to bludgeon the hoi polloi into submission. For some years, I’ve been thinking that there should be a course or a resource that teaches what everyone should know about models in science and how they can be used for, ahem, multiple purposes. So I immediately latched on Jean Goodwin’s comment:
ATTW, One audience I have in mind for the Manifesto is undergrads. I’ve been wanting for a while, and even more since March, to put together a course called something like Modelling: Critical Thinking & Communication. Entry level, larger enrollment. Non-STEM majors would learn about the kinds of questions they should be asking to probe models that they encounter, used or abused, in policy arguments. STEM majors would learn how to communicate what they know to nonspecialist audiences–which basically means answering all those questions in advance. By the end, everyone would be able to use words like “sensitivity” and “boundary conditions” a bit more cogently.
But I haven’t gone forward with this, since I’m missing resources: in addition to things like a modeller-colleague to co-develop the course and some “spare time”, there aren’t a lot of readings/tools/resources that would work. The Manifesto would–it’s on an issue that students will recognize for at least a few years, it’s written at the intelligent layperson level, it pretty much says some things that are well known (to me, that’s the biggest critique of the piece) in vivid language, and it has a couple of claims so questionable that a bright undergrad will call them out. Which is as it should be, since critical thinking is an aim of the course.
What resources would y’all suggest? They need to:
– stick with the big picture, not your fields’ latest squabbles
– be decision-relevant in some way
– mostly fall within US undergraduates’ background knowledge, and if there are technical sections, they need to be cut-able without too much harm
– overall, represent various approaches to modelling in diverse disciplines
– short! and as my students say, “fun”
I have an elementary “Introduction to the Scientific Method”-type course coming up again this fall, and would be interested in developing this theme at least a bit further. Anyone else? Let me know here or on Twitter, @jmkorhon_en !
Resources, gathered from the thread above:
Books, suggested by Brigitte Nerlich
Harré, R. 1960. Metaphor, model, and mechanism. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 50:101-22.
Harré, R. 1970. The principles of scientific thinking. London: Macmillan.
Hesse, M.B. 1966. Models and analogies in science. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.
Hughes, R.I.G. 1997. Models and representation. Philosophy of Science 64:325-36.
Ravetz, J. 2003. Models as metaphors. In Public participation in sustainability science: A handbook, ed. B. Kasemir , J. Jäger , Carlo C. Jaeger , and M. T. Gardner , with a foreword by W. C. Clark and A. Wokaun. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Wartofsky, M.W. 1979. Models: Representation and the scientific understanding . Dordrecht: D. Reidel.
Yearley, S. 1999. Computer models and the public’s understanding of science: A case-study analysis. Social Studies of Science 296:845-66.
Max Black’s Models and Archetypes