Why Biology Needs Mathematical Models

John Hawks reviews Peter Turchin’s 1998 book, Quantitative Analysis of Movement.

I tend to lecture about genetic models, for which there is a great value in simplicity (point 3), but which may require quite complicated extensions to handle reasonable biological populations (point 2). In that connection, some reasonable people go to extremes of interpretation — sometimes claiming that the data necessitate some assumption on the basis of a very simplified model, and in other cases claiming that no model can apply to the complex history of the population. It is our task (my task) to determine which factors are important and conceivably affect results, and which will always be too weak to influence the interpretation of the data (point 1). And the end will often be to discover evidence for values in past human populations for which we have no direct means of estimating aside from genetic variation (point 5).

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One response to “Why Biology Needs Mathematical Models

  1. This forum nedeed shaking up and you?’ve just done that. Great post!

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