On the nature and fallacies of Economics

Below are a few different articles on the shortcomings and false assumptions of modern economics. What’s central to each of these is the difference between the human sciences and the natural sciences and the consequences of mistaking one for the other. Economics is a social science and many problems arise when we treat it as if, because of its sophisticated mathematical models, that it is like a natural science. The last article is an interesting example of the important of models when trying to understand reality.

Old economics is based on false ‘laws of physics’ – new economics can save us

It is time to ditch the belief that economies obey rigid mechanical rules, which has widened inequality and polluted our planet. Economics is evolving

In the 1870s, a handful of aspiring economists hoped to make economics a science as reputable as physics. Awed by Newton’s insights on the physical laws of motion – laws that so elegantly describe the trajectory of falling apples and orbiting moons – they sought to create an economic theory that matched his legacy.

Their mechanical metaphor sounds authoritative, but it was ill-chosen from the start

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For better science, call off the revolutionaries

Good science requires a spirit of collaboration, not domination. The debate in social psychology involves some essential criticism of past scientific practice, but revolutions can also lead to a bandwagon effect, in which bullies pile on and bystanders fearfully turn a blind eye. Especially as more disagreements among researchers surface in social media rather than professional publications, there is an insidious temptation to mistake being critical for being right, and to subordinate humility and decency to a “gloating sense of ‘gotcha,’” as the journal Nature put it.

There is a better way forward: through evolution, not revolution.


Science vs. Humanities in 3 Rounds. Steven Pinker and Leon Wieseltier discuss.

Science Is Not Your Enemy: An impassioned plea to neglected novelists, embattled professors, and tenure-less historians

Though everyone endorses science when it can cure disease, monitor the environment, or bash political opponents, the intrusion of science into the territories of the humanities has been deeply resented. Just as reviled is the application of scientific reasoning to religion; many writers without a trace of a belief in God maintain that there is something unseemly about scientists weighing in on the biggest questions. In the major journals of opinion, scientific carpetbaggers are regularly accused of determinism, reductionism, essentialism, positivism, and worst of all, something called “scientism.”


Crimes Against Humanities: Now science wants to invade the liberal arts. Don’t let it happen.

The question of the place of science in knowledge, and in society, and in life, is not a scientific question. Science confers no special authority, it confers no authority at all, for the attempt to answer a nonscientific question. It is not for science to say whether science belongs in morality and politics and art. Those are philosophical matters, and science is not philosophy, even if philosophy has since its beginnings been receptive to science. Nor does science confer any license to extend its categories and its methods beyond its own realms, whose contours are of course a matter of debate.


Science vs. the Humanities, Round III

Wieseltier bristles at my suggestion that science is distinguished by the value it places on the thorough-going intelligibility of the world—on the relentless search beyond the explanation of a phenomenon for a still deeper explanation of the explicans. Yet he legislates that the humanities may tolerate no such curiosity.