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Re: HC selectivity ... was Re: Physiological models of cochlea activity - alternatives to the travelling wave

On Fri, 28 Sep 2007, Martin Braun wrote:

> Dick, it simply is a waste of time to model impossibilities. The alchemists
> of the Middle Ages had the most fantastic models of how to make gold from
> other metals. There was no shortage of models. There was a lack of insight.

Probably it's not the proper place to discuss the role and importance of
modelling in scientific reasoning, but I simply feel that I have to protest
against your argumentation against modelling in general.
According to its scientific definition, a good model "must accurately
describe a large class of observations [..] and it must make definite
predictions about the results of future observations" (S. Hawking).
In that sense the alchemists' speculations could hardly be called models,
and that's while I feel your example to be hostile. Modelling is the most
basic tool of modern scinetific thinking, if used properly.
Meanwhile I definitely agree with you that many researchers are inclined
to forget about examining the data and instead focus too much on the
model. In particular, I observe that behaviour with engineers very
frequently. It's quite a typical situation when an engineer comes to me
saying "I have a nice new mathematical construct, don't you have some
signal processing problem that it would fit? :)


               Laszlo Toth
        Hungarian Academy of Sciences         *
  Research Group on Artificial Intelligence   *   "Failure only begins
     e-mail: tothl@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx            *    when you stop trying"
     http://www.inf.u-szeged.hu/~tothl        *