At this point I can no longer remember the when/where/why of my encountering this simple quote from the British statistician George Box. But the raucous cheering that erupted in the recesses of my brain still echoes. So much import across nine simple words:
All models are wrong, but some models are useful.
Of course the model/framework/typology/whatever has flaws and gaps. If it were completely aligned with reality, then it would be reality. But it's not. To quote the Pythons, “it's only a model”. And to insist that it be “right” in all conditions is just a silly attempt to evade dealing with the usefulness of the model in question for addressing the situation at hand.
Some years ago my wife and I spent a wonderful long weekend with friends visiting wineries around Yakima WA. Rather than heading right back to Chicago we wandered west along the Columbia River to Portland for a day on our own. That always includes some quality time at Powell's City of Books. So easy to lose track of time in that massive candy store for the mind!
While getting organized to check out, deciding on a few books to carry home, my eye fell on This Will Make You Smarter, my introduction to the edge.org annual questions. That year’s question was “What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit?”