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Reply #216: That's a gross simplification of my argument. [View All]

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eomer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Nov-20-11 07:48 AM
Response to Reply #215
216. That's a gross simplification of my argument.
Edited on Sun Nov-20-11 08:44 AM by eomer
OTOH, whom I like a lot, wrote in part:

I guess that might make sense for a suitable definition of "gross," but the truth is that even back-of-the-envelope analyses can be legitimately highly persuasive -- or unpersuasive -- to people who know how to evaluate them.


Yes, that's pretty much the point I was trying to make but apparently didn't word well enough.

Gross simplifications are neither inherently true nor inherently false. They are neither inherently safe nor inherently unsafe. But in the context of a paper that purports to demonstrate something mathematically their credibility starts at zero. You can't demonstrate something using a gross simplification unless you also demonstrate that the gross simplification is safe to make in the context in which it is used. Bazant's gross simplification starts at zero credibility and then stays at zero credibility because he never demonstrates why it is a safe simplification in the context.

Edit to add: in the case of meteorology the simplifications of the models are vetted empirically over time. Same thing with the simplifications of economic models. Paul Krugman wrote a blog entry recently pointing out that his models continue to hold up through the recent financial disasters while those that insist on supply-side solutions failed to correctly predict the behavior of the real-world system. Obviously this is all stuff you know, just pointing it out for the record.

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