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PLoS Biol. 2014 Dec 9;12(12):e1002017. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1002017. eCollection 2014 Dec.

Not just a theory--the utility of mathematical models in evolutionary biology.

Author information

1
Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States of America.
2
Department of Plant Biology, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, St. Paul, Minnesota, United States of America.
3
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent), Durham, North Carolina, United States of America.
4
Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, St. Paul, Minnesota, United States of America.
5
Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States of America; Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, New Mexico, United States of America.
6
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent), Durham, North Carolina, United States of America; Department of Biology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, United States of America.

Abstract

Progress in science often begins with verbal hypotheses meant to explain why certain biological phenomena exist. An important purpose of mathematical models in evolutionary research, as in many other fields, is to act as “proof-of-concept” tests of the logic in verbal explanations, paralleling the way in which empirical data are used to test hypotheses. Because not all subfields of biology use mathematics for this purpose, misunderstandings of the function of proof-of-concept modeling are common. In the hope of facilitating communication, we discuss the role of proof-of-concept modeling in evolutionary biology.

PMID:
25489940
PMCID:
PMC4260780
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pbio.1002017
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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