Economics and the Higgs-Moron
Is economics a science? Maybe, maybe not.
Even if you can convince other economists, and scientists, that economics is scientific, it’s going to be near impossible to convince the public of that.
Perhaps it’s not necessary, but the fact still remains.
When economist after economist allows their priors to get in the way of good, healthy, objective and scientifically reasonable economic information and disseminate false information to the public not in the interest to actually inform the public but to manipulate the public, your level of trust is going down the crapper. And it happens every single day of the year that there’s an economist or someone claiming to speak for economists on television or the newspapers.
And these people are going to keep coming onto tv and the news and will continue spelling out false yet advantageous information to make themselves or someone else richer or to prove correct their non-reflective, severely biased beliefs that are not based on strong data or is contradicted by it.
Perhaps economics is too complex to deem it a physics which take singular truths and try to explain them. Perhaps there are no singular truths in economics just as there are no singular truths in psychology. Economics is a science but don’t argue that it’s a hard science and don’t make the mistake of comparing it to particle physics like this article did.
When an economist tries to predict something, it’s based partially on a priori knowledge and data. When a particle physicist is looking for the Higgs-Boson, they’re looking for that extremely elusive particle that the we know has to exist because the data, all by itself instead of a priori knowledge, says it has to exist.
If economists can predict the existence of something singularly through mathematics, then it comes closer to a hard science. But that’s not really the point, is it? The question is whether economics is scientific at all and is basing that question on its ability to predict things.
Psychology is a science as well. It can’t predict much of anything. That is not its intent. Neither is the intent of physics to predict anything. Its intent is to figure things out, not predict things. It has predictive properties but you can’t call the search for Higgs-Boson a prediction. It was a certainty based on the theory, we just needed to actually make it come out of its hiding place.
Economics, however, is more like psychology in that it’s attempting to explain a dynamic world which has no hard truths like physics does. Whether our physics theories explain those absolute truths (under X circumstances, Y will happen) correctly or not, economics cannot do the same thing.
So the question isn’t whether economics is a science or not, the question is whether it’s a soft science or a hard science. That question is just silly. It’s a science but one that is incredibly corrupted by the fact it has no ability to manage its body of evidence.
What incentive does a physicist have to misconstrue evidence that cannot be replicated? He’d be laughed to the stocks and pelted with (hopefully) high-speed particles by other physicists. How soon can we find evidence of the Higgs-Moron particle from a lying scientist?
There is, however, plenty of incentive for an economist to misconstrue evidence because it cannot be so easily replicated. Someone can check your math and argue that you’re wrong but there will always be some other economist from the same school of economics as the original, devious economist who will back them up. Economists can appreciate “teaching the controversy” because it sows doubt and people can just believe whatever it is they want to believe based on their priors. This allows wealthy interests to manipulate what would otherwise be the scientific consensus and end up winning a big wad of cash.
So, sure, economics is a soft science.
The field of economics, however, sure as hell is not.