Monday, September 29, 2014

Adam Ozimek — Enough Already With The Sweeping Claims That Economics Is Unscientific

Ozimek asks the right question, Is economics scientific?, rather than is economics a science? It is possible for a discipline to be scientific without being a science like physics and biology with a well-developed generally agreed upon paradigm that defines normal science in the discipline. This is not the case with psychology or the social sciences, however, where there is no normal paradigm. This does not preclude using scientific method to do research, however. These disciplines are scientific but without being sciences in the sense of having a normal paradigm that defines the existing state of the discipline. 

Orthodox economists have done their best to establish the neoclassic ally based paradigm as the norm for doing economics science. However, there are too many working out of heterodox paradigms to support that claim, especially in light of heterodox successes and criticism of orthodox methodology.

Moreover, there are no overarching criteria that delimit scientific method and determine what is correctly called "scientific" rather than rigorous. "Science" and "scientific" connote "true knowledge" in the ancient sense of episteme (knowledge) versus doxa (opinion) or pistis (conviction or belief). This involves establishing criteria for distinguishing among them, and debate over this has been raging for millennia. The jury is still out.

Much of the controversy is over representation and therefore, misrepresentation. Orthodoxy in whatever field has represented itself as the owner of the true knowledge — "The ocean is in my bucket" — while heterodoxy has disputed that claim as baseless and biased, holding that it rests on an argument from authority based on a good deal of sophistry and reliance on power. These are attributes of dogmatism that rather science.

A fundamental feature of scientific method is that assumptions, hypotheses and conclusions are always tentative. Theories may be very robust based on criteria of consistency, correspondence, pragmatism, and elegance, but a theory is never timeless true and beyond question, revision, or even replacement by a new paradigm.

Forbes — Modeled Behavior
Enough Already With The Sweeping Claims That Economics Is Unscientific
Adam Ozimek | economist at Moody's Analytics
h/t Mark Thoma at Economist's View

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