Sunday, October 23, 2005

Models or Theories?

I'm interested in trying to understand the difference.

From my dictionary:

Model: (noun)
1. A representation in three dimensions, often different scale;
2. A simplified description of a system, process, etc., put forward as a basis for theoretical or empirical understanding; a conceptual or mental representation of a thing;
3. A figure in clay, wax, etc. to be reproduced in another more durable material;
4. A car etc., of a particular design or produced in a specified year;
5. An exemplary person or thing;
6. A person or thing used, or for use, as an example to copy or imitate;
7. A person employed to pose for an artist, photographer, to display clothes etc.;
8. An actual person, place, etc., on which a fictional character is based;
9. A garment etc., by a well-known designer, or a copy of this.

1. serving as an example; exemplary, ideally perfect;
2. designating a small-scale model of the object or kind of object specified.

Theory: (noun)
1. A supposition or system of ideas explaining something, esp. one based on general principles independent of the particular things to be explained (opp. hypothesis) (atomic theory; theory of evolution);
2. A speculative (esp. fanciful) view (one of my pet theories);
3. (the sphere of) abstract knowlege or speculative thought (this is all very well in theory but how will it work in practice?);
4. the principles on which a subject of study is based (the theory of music, economic theory);
5. Math. a collection of propositions to illustrate the principles of a subject (probability theory; theory of equations). From Greek root meaning 'to look at' or 'spectator.'


I think a model or cluster of models can develop from a theory, but theories don't come from models, or shouldn't ( all cows are animals but not all animals are cows). One difference I see in the common definitions cited above is a tendency for "models" to be three dimensional representations, as opposed to "theories" which remain in the realm of abstract.

Probably use of the term "model" in matters of manual therapy comes from def. #2 above. Seems to me not much exists in treatment-land about what is what or which is which. Blurry. Seems to me everything we do is pretty much based on somebody's 'model' (i.e. 'opinion') as opposed to good theories. Can a model, even a good model, ever supplant a good theory? Or will it default to becoming Cartesian yet again? Most treatment models are incomplete, focus on one system or a few at the expense of all the others, or give one system (or a few) clear precedence as being causal. But of what?

Example: Orthopaedic thinking, chiropractic thinking: Same in that they view bone/joint position as central to the model of dysfunction. The treatment models involve trying to push bones and joints around.

Example: Rolfer thinking, Myofascial Release thinking: Same in that the focus is on connective tissue. The treatment models involve trying to push the fascia around.

Example: Massage thinking, Neuromuscular thinking: Same in that the focus is on muscle and its output function. Treatment models consist of trying to stretch/strengthen/alter muscle function and/or posture somehow.

I submit that all these approaches are Cartesian. To be fair, they helped us all get through the twentieth century before much was being learned about the brain, I'll give them that .. but are they past their due date? ALL of these approaches have to be applied through skin, if hands-on, and/or through the sensory system/cognitive system somehow if they are strictly educative. Therefore I submit that the sensory nervous system must be understood and placed into context first, prior to use of any "model", as a tool with which to understand and account for "theory", in this case "neuromatrix theory."

Further I submit that any claims of efficacy of said models that flow from the assumption that actual tissue has been changed somehow, with no accounting for the simple fact that it is likely the brain that instead has decided to change its outflow, is to not be very adept at using Occam's razor yet. Using Occam's razor, in fact, is something the treatment community knows next to nothing about. I can say this because I am a member of it.

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