“With four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk”

Attributed to von Neumann by Enrico Fermi, as quoted by Freeman Dyson in “A meeting with Enrico Fermi” in Nature 427 (22 January 2004) p. 297


What did Von Neumann mean by this? He meant that by using enough input variables, you can get any result you seek.

i.e. the story of climate models.

About stevengoddard

Just having fun
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4 Responses to “With four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk”

  1. Andy Weiss says:


    • Mike Davis says:

      With the proper parameters you can make a pig fly or predict unstoppable global warming caused by human activity. Both theories are equally valid.

      • John Neer says:

        With enough input parameters I can also predict that the sky is blue. Does that make it invalid? Making a computer work requires models with huge amounts of parameters – does this make computers not work? This type of argument is a classic case of association fallacy, where you imply that if something unrelated isn’t true, then the first argument must also be false. There’s no reason for that to be. That’s not to say there might not be something wrong with climate models, just that your argument doesn’t have any relevance whatsoever onto whether the models are correct.


      • Climate models are the ultimate vehicle of confirmation bias.

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