Over the last several weeks I’ve encountered a range of negative views toward the models epidemiologists have been using in the struggle against COVID-19. Skepticism is a healthy thing. But rejecting models entirely isn’t skepticism. Latching onto fringe theories isn’t skepticism. Rejecting the flattening-the-curve strategy because it’s allegedly model-based isn’t skepticism either.
These responses are mostly misunderstandings of what models are and of how flattening-the-curve came to be.
I’m not claiming expertise in scientific modeling. Most of this is high school level science class stuff. But for a lot of us, high school science was a long time ago, or wasn’t very good—or we weren’t paying attention.
Those tasked with explaining science to us non-scientists define and classify scientific models in a variety of ways.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, for example, describes at least 8 varieties of models, along with a good bit of historical and philosophical background. They’ve got about 18,000 words on it.
A much simpler summary comes from the Science Learning Hub, a Science-education project in New Zealand. Helpfully, SLH doesn’t assume readers have a lot of background.
"The core distinction between 'genetic' ancestry and 'genealogical' ancestry seems valid. Adam and Eve could’ve been genealogical ancestors of all humans alive today, without leaving any genetic trace....Nevertheless, the genealogical hypothesis itself is still dissonant with the biblical Adam and Eve." - TGC
"Dr. Hayhoe’s bifurcation of belief (faith) and scientific knowledge (as derived from observation) is a common misunderstanding. ...She writes as if thinking that 2 + 2 = 4, or that human activity is driving dangerous climate change, is not belief, but thinking that Jesus rose from the dead, or 'that God’s love has been poured in our hearts,' is." - Cornwall Alliance
"I emphasize that astronomy, being an observational science, rather than an experimental science, is still science. People must understand that the scientific method that they learned growing up was highly idealized, and it was presented in a manner that is tailor-made for experimental science, such as biology. But this description of the scientific method is much too restrictive." - AiG
"So says Australian scholar Peter Harrison of the University of Queensland, the author of The Bible, Protestantism, and the Rise of Natural Science (Cambridge University Press, 2001) and Science Without God?: Rethinking the History of Scientific Naturalism (Oxford University Press, 2019)." - Gene Veith
"These are novel living machines," said Joshua Bongard, one of the lead researchers at the University of Vermont, in the news release. "They're neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. It's a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism." - CNN