Complex Systems, Trade-Offs and Theoretical Population Biology: Richard Levin`s 'Strategy of Model Building in Population Biology' Revisited

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Odenbaugh, Jay
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Ecologist Richard Levins (1966, 1968) argues population biologists must trade-off the generality, realism and precision of their models since biological systems are complex and our limitations are severe. Elliott Sober and Steven Orzack (1993) argue that there are cases where these model properties cannot be varied independently of one another. If this is correct, then Levins` thesis that there is a necessary trade-off between generality, precision, and realism in mathematical models in biology is false. I argue that Sober and Orzack`s arguments fail since Levins` thesis concerns the pragmatic features of model building not just the formal properties of models.