October 8, 2017

Social science is NOT a science but a sitcom

Comment on David B. Feldman on ‘Is Psychology Really a Science?


The so-called social sciences have been identified by Feynman as cargo cult sciences: “They’re doing everything right. The form is perfect. ... But it doesn’t work. ... So I call these things cargo cult science because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they’re missing something essential.”

What is missing is the true theory, with scientific truth well-defined as material and formal consistency. The problem is this, psychologists, for example, know that they do not satisfy scientific standards but they insist nonetheless on the title social science. It has immediately been obvious that Freud’s storytelling and adoption of Greek myth had not much to do with science (for example to Popper) but more with a modern alternative to religion/superstition and with a new format for the entertainment industry. The similarity between a therapy setting and a sitcom simply cannot be overlooked.

All problems would end immediately if the social sciences could stop calling themselves sciences. For whatever reason, they cannot. And because science relies on self-government and the voluntary adherence to scientific ethics and because there is no such thing as science police who expels cargo cult sciences and jails fake scientists, the so-called social sciences continue with what in commonplace terms is a fraud, i.e. with pretending what they not are.

As far as economics defines itself as social science, the same untenable situation prevails. The major approaches ― Walrasianism, Keynesianism, Marxianism, Austrianism ― are mutually contradictory, axiomatically false, materially/formally inconsistent and all got the foundational economic concept of profit wrong. It is fraudulent to present this indefensible proto-scientific garbage as science.#2

Because economists lack the true theory their economic policy guidance has NO sound scientific foundations since Adam Smith/Karl Marx. In order to become a science, economics needs a Paradigm Shift from false Walrasian microfoundations and false Keynesian macrofoundations to true systemic macrofoundations. Economics is NOT a social science but a systems science.

The simple reason why economics is a failed science is that both orthodox and heterodox economists share the foundational self-delusion that economics is a social science.

Until this day, economists have NOT gotten the foundational concepts of their subject matter, i.e. profit and income, right. This is like medieval physics before the foundational concept of energy was properly understood.#3

When economists are told that economics does not satisfy the scientific standards of material and formal consistency they invariably fall back on J. S. Mill’s slogan of economics as ‘inexact and separate science’. This, of course, is merely one of the economists’ numerous unacceptable excuses.#4 There is NO such thing as an inexact and separate science. There is only science and non-science respectively cargo cult science. The so-called social sciences and economics fall into the latter category.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

#1 What is so great about cargo cult science? or, How economists learned to stop worrying about failure
#2 The real problem with the economics Nobel
#3 Economists’ three-layered scientific incompetence
#4 Failed economics: The losers’ long list of lame excuses

Related 'Economics is NOT a social science' and 'Still on the wrong track' and 'PsySoc — the scourge of economics' and 'The stupidity of Heterodoxy is the life insurance of Orthodoxy'. For details of the big picture see cross-references Not a Science of Behavior

REPLY to Matt Franko on Oct 8

You say: “Economics and some of these other unsuccessful disciplines don't attract the best people...”

In order to understand the obvious lack of scientific success, it is crucial to realize that there are political economics and theoretical economics. The main differences are: (i) The goal of political economics is to successfully push an agenda, and the goal of theoretical economics is to successfully explain how the actual economy works. (ii) In political economics anything goes; in theoretical economics, the scientific standards of material and formal consistency are observed.

Theoretical economics (= science) has been body-snatched by political economists (= agenda pushers). Indeed, it is a fact that political economics does NOT attract the best people. Political economics has achieved NOTHING of scientific value in the last 200+ years. Political economics attracts people that are stupid or corrupt or both.

Science consists of two essential elements: “Research is, in fact, a continuous discussion of the consistency of theories: formal consistency insofar as the discussion relates to the logical cohesion of what is asserted in joint theories; material consistency insofar as the agreement of observations with theories is concerned.” (Klant) Logical consistency is secured by applying the axiomatic-deductive method and empirical consistency is secured by applying state-of-art testing.

Science is well-defined for 2300+ years. Economics is a failed science because economists are incompetent scientists. This applies to both Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy.#1 MMT is part of the mess.

What has been proven is that the formal foundations, i.e. the balances equations, of MMT are false.#2 Because of this, the whole analytical superstructure of MMT is false.

So, how MMTer in general, and Stephanie Kelton, in particular, think and op-ed about the deficit is mostly wrong.#3 Obviously, MMT attracts the wrong folks. These underperformers and storytellers do not even get the elementary math of National Accounting right.

#1 The stupidity of Heterodoxy is the life insurance of Orthodoxy
#2 Rectification of MMT macro accounting
#3 MMT: Redistribution as wellness program

REPLY to Ignacio on Oct 9

You ask “Is psychology a science?!?!?!" = ‘is gold money?!?!?!’ something can be analyzed by ‘the scientific method’ but it may be just a figure of speech to say something IS a ‘science’.”

Psychology is NOT a science, and neither is economics. Science is well-defined for 2300+ years by material and formal consistency. Neither psychology nor economics satisfies these criteria. Because of this, they are cargo cult sciences: “They’re doing everything right. The form is perfect. ... But it doesn’t work. ... So I call these things cargo cult science because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they’re missing something essential.” (Feynman)

The problem with economics is that each year the “Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel” is awarded.#1 In order NOT to mislead the general public, the word ‘sciences’ has to be deleted from the title.#2

#1 The real problem with the economics Nobel
#2 Economics is NOT a science of behavior

REPLY to Tom Hickey on Oct 9

Every layperson who is confronted with the statement: Mr. A has been murdered and you are the murderer, understands immediately the concept of scientific truth. Truth is (i) binary true/false with NOTHING in between, and (ii), truth is objective, that is provable in principle, and (iii), that it is worth every effort to find out the truth even if we cannot be absolutely sure that we will be successful. As Popper put it “Although nowadays we have given up the idea of absolutely certain knowledge, we have not by any means given up the idea of the search for truth. (Popper)

Admitting that there is no absolute certain knowledge is compatible with the assertion that the Law of the Lever represents certain knowledge. In fact, science is defined as the body of certain knowledge.

While genuine scientists have no problem with the idea of certain knowledge philosophers, who are known for having produced blather instead of knowledge throughout recorded history, desperately try to keep things in the swamp between true and false where ‘nothing is clear and everything is possible’ (Keynes). This insistence on inconclusiveness is a survival strategy of incompetent scientists and political agenda pushers, in other words, of failed and fake scientists. Needless to emphasize that these folks are the most enthusiastic followers of Feyerabend and tireless proponents of anything-goes.

Philosophers, social scientists, and economists are the traditional clientele of political clowns like the younger Feyerabend. How can science keep these folks at bay?

Let us make a thought experiment. There are two aircraft called PHI and SCI waiting in the maneuvering area. PHI has been designed/constructed by philosophers, psychologists, economists, and other fake scientists. SCI has been designed/constructed by folks who subscribe to the methodology of material/formal consistency as explained in the foreword of every physics textbook. Which aircraft will the fake scientists try to board? Clearly, in order to get rid of these folks, one has to make sure that they risk their lives with their own crappy constructs.

Of course, there is certain truth in economics but after 200+ years economists still have no idea what it looks like. The major approaches ― Walrasianism, Keynesianism/MMT, Marxianism, Austrianism ― are mutually contradictory, axiomatically false, materially/ formally inconsistent, and all got profit wrong.