Who said "All models are wrong but some are useful?"

George Box. But others before him said similar things...The long history of this ideas speaks to the importance of : (1) reality bias and the need to recognize mental models, (2) the systems thinking loop, and (3) DSRP.


"Since all models are wrong the scientist must be alert to what is importantly wrong. It is inappropriate to be concerned about mice when there are tigers abroad."

Box GEP. Science and Statistics. Journal of the American Statistical Association,. 1976;71: 791–799.

"… no models are [true]—not even the Newtonian laws. When you construct a model you leave out all the details which you, with the knowledge at your disposal, consider inessential…. Models should not be true, but it is important that they are applicable, and whether they are applicable for any given purpose must of course be investigated. This also means that a model is never accepted finally, only on trial."

Shewhart WA. Statistical Method from the Viewpoint of Quality Control. U.S. Department of Agriculture, p. 19. 1939. p. 19.

 "truth … is much too complicated to allow anything but approximations"

Von Neumann J. The mathematician. 1947. 1947; 180–196. 

"Ce qui est simple est toujours faux. Ce qui ne l'est pas est inutilisable.' [What is simple is always wrong. What is not is unusable.]

Valéry P. Mauvaises pensées et autres. Gallimard Paris, France; 1942.

… no model can ever be theoretically attainable that will completely and uniquely characterize the indefinitely expansible concept of a state of statistical control. What is perhaps even more important, on the basis of a finite portion of the sequence [X1, X2, X3, …]—and we can never have more than a finite portion—we can not reasonably hope to construct a model that will represent exactly any specific characteristic of a particular state of control even though such a state actually exists. Here the situation is much like that in physical science where we find a model of a molecule; any model is always an incomplete though useful picture of the conceived physical thing called a molecule.

Rasch G. Probabilistic Models for Some Intelligence and Attainment Tests. Danmarks Paedagogiske Institut; 1960.

We all know that art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.

Picasso P. Picasso speaks. The Arts. 1923. pp. 315–326.