CHAPTER 4: Introduction to Systems Theory

(a). Humans and Their Models

One common conclusion of scientific inquiry is that the world of nature is often very complex. To understand this complexity, scientists usually try to envisage the phenomena of nature as simplified versions of reality known as a system. A system can be defined as a collection of interrelated parts that work together by way of some driving process.

In the world of science, the word model is quite similar in meaning to the term system. Models in science tend to be simplified representations of reality that can be explained of mathematically and through the use of graphics. The following graphical model is used to help explain the processes involved in scientific understanding. The arrows in this graphically model suggest a continuous interaction between perceptible phenomena and theory through the processes of explanation and validation. This simple graphical model, while an extreme abstraction of the real world, is quite useful in explaining how scientific understanding works.

Figure 4a-1: The general relationship between perceptible phenomena and theory using scientific method for understanding. The interaction between perceptible phenomena and theory is arrived at through the processes of explanation and validation.


In Physical Geography, and many other fields of knowledge, systems and models are used extensively as aids in explaining natural phenomena around us.


Study Guide


Additional Readings

Internet Weblinks
Citation: Pidwirny, M. (2006). "Humans and Their Models". Fundamentals of Physical Geography, 2nd Edition. Date Viewed.


Created by Dr. Michael Pidwirny & Scott Jones University of British Columbia Okanagan

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05/07/2009 10:00