Theory, models, and descriptions of reality

The connection between the abstract and physical worlds

What kind of “world pictures” is man dealing with? Pictures or models of the world are descriptions of parts of the physical world. For example, a map is a model or description of an area, and the area itself exists in the real, physical world.

Descriptions of the objective world fall into two categories: scientific (theories, disciplines) and non-scientific (stories, legends, superstitions, myths). The difference between them is that the theories (scientific category) provide an explanation of reality that stands up to scrutiny by the scientific method. It will not depend on the verifier, moreover, the theory is equally formulated (by signs in the form of formulas) or conveys the same essence in different languages. In turn, non-scientific theories do not have this formal rigor, but they can do a good job of eliminating internal anxiety and worry.

The pictures of the world differ from each other in their “probabilistic predictability”. Some models have one prediction probability, while others have another. Therefore, it can be said that scientific theories model the world better and therefore predict a more probable outcome than non-scientific pictures of the world. However, folk wisdom does not have a predictive probability of zero, so some omens may well come true with a certain periodicity. Also, any scientific theory does not have a 100% probability of prediction. For example, the predictions of meteorologists or physicians do not always come true, and Newton’s laws do not apply to the entire universe.

Folk omens are the result of unscientific modeling of some part of the physical world while weather forecasting is a scientific model. In this case, we are talking about the state of the weather in an area as a part of the physical world. But this area or part of the physical world can be looked at from different points of view. For example, in addition to weather, a map of an area can be modeled, a list of people living in that area can be made, etc. Any part of the physical world can be described from different points of view, and different models or pictures of the world will be obtained accordingly.

The plastic human brain has created a multitude of scientific theories, some what-scientific beliefs, and ideologies that compete with one another in trying to explain the physical world and human behavior in that world. Science and religion, epics and gossip, art and culture, in general, are all designed to systematize knowledge of the world for survival and joy (pleasure), inner peace and confidence, as well as for building systems and changing the world.

People communicate with each other by exchanging their “pictures of the world”. We discuss with each other how we represent reality or how we describe it together (for example, if we were to create a new theory or discipline). Sometimes one sees reality a little better than the other from a probabilistic point of view, and sometimes people look at it from different professional perspectives. In this regard, it is impossible to operate with the words like “true” or “correct”. We will say that one picture of the world (or action) is more or less likely than another, and yet two different descriptions of the same reality may be fundamentally different from each other.


In today’s world, the boundaries between the concepts of theory, model, description, discipline, scientific hypothesis, etc. have been practically erased. All these terms will be used as synonyms. The main difference, however, to which we should pay attention, as mentioned above, is the probability of prediction. A good theory has a high probability of prediction, while a bad one has a low probability.


According to a review by Scientific American magazine, the word “theory” is one of the top 7 most commonly misused words that have come into everyday language from science. The division into “theory” (thoughts disconnected from life) and “practice” (how the world really works) has become well established in everyday language. You have probably heard or maybe said yourself, “For me, theory is not interesting, I just want practice”. However, this is incorrect.

A scientific theory is a model of a part of the world whose applicability has been verified through experiments or tests. Therefore, a scientific theory is not disconnected from life - it is based on it! Without verification in reality, a potential theory will not gain the status of a scientific theory.

There is nothing more practical than a good theory because it allows us to reduce the time our brains (calculator) take to adjust to making decisions in a new field of activity. Therefore, the main task of a person is to load (train) his brain with good theories that can be applied in life.

Any theory consists of concepts (terms), rules, principles, formulas, schemes. A theory determines a person’s profession, that is, a person studies long enough to have a professional view of some part of the physical world. For example, a biologist sees a person as his biological structure, a doctor sees a person as the disease that this person has, a traffic police inspector sees a person as a driver.



Each person’s interest in reality depends on the theories or pictures of the world that have been downloaded into their head. A grandmother will see a cat as a nice purring ball, while a veterinarian will see a set of interacting systems in a cat (circulatory system, respiratory system, musculoskeletal system, etc.) that ensure the vital functions of the body. Everyone sees what they need in reality and chooses an appropriate picture of the world that allows them to solve their respective problems. For example, to create certain work products. A map of an area is better drawn by a cartographer than by a native who has lived in the area all his life.

Discovered laws of nature, invented abstract worlds, or experiences interpreted in a certain way became the norms of life according to which people began to unite in communities. In every community people have the same “picture of the world”. Such communities are families, tribes, nations, collectives, or scientific communities.

Thus, the physical world which is in a person’s head is in the form of abstract “world pictures”. Knowledge of the most likely “pictures of the world” helps a person to get better settled in the physical world. Through scientific pictures of the world (theories) man learns reality faster and more accurately. But it is not just scientific theories that make up a person’s view of the world. Later on, we will talk about how a person’s worldview is formed or how “world pictures” are built into a person.

Do You read english or new russian version?

Currently, I am not reading anything at all… :frowning: Too busy with onboarding to the new work place.
This post is just one in the series of ‘transfers’ of old posts from our Aisystant (
Take a look at the next one What do we mean when we say “systems thinking”?

Essentially, I would say that post content is relevant (I have read the latest Russian version of Systems Thinking course). But if you have some corrections - don’t hesitate to comment!

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