December 28, 2019

Economic narratives are for the scientific garbage dump

Comment on Maria Popova on ‘How Kepler Invented Science Fiction and Defended His Mother in a Witchcraft Trial While Revolutionizing Our Understanding of the Universe’*

Own post, Twitter-Reference

To recall, science is about true/false and nothing else. Strictly speaking, it is NOT the task of science to convince the “scientifically illiterate public.” The acceptance of a theory depends alone on the proof of material/formal consistency and NOT on the approval of the general public or the number of followers on Twitter. Storytelling, on the other hand, has been the tool of religious/political fraudsters since they put down their fake accounts of creation and evolution/history in their so-called holy books. To put the scientist Kepler at one level with religious/political impostors is an absolute disgrace.

“In 1609, Johannes Kepler finished the first work of genuine science fiction — that is, imaginative storytelling in which sensical science is a major plot device. Somnium, or The Dream, is the fictional account of a young astronomer who voyages to the Moon. Rich in both scientific ingenuity and symbolic play, it is at once a masterwork of the literary imagination and an invaluable scientific document, all the more impressive for the fact that it was written before Galileo pointed the first spyglass at the sky and before Kepler himself had ever looked through a telescope. Kepler knew what we habitually forget — that the locus of possibility expands when the unimaginable is imagined and then made real through systematic effort.”

To call Somnium a piece of “imaginative storytelling” is tempting but utterly misleading. Somnium is an example of a thought experiment. And Kepler drives home the crucial point of the exercise: “Everyone says it is plain that the stars go around the earth while the Earth remains still. I say that it is plain to the eyes of the lunar people that our Earth, which is their Volva, goes around while their moon is still. If it be said that the lunatic perceptions of my moon-dwellers are deceived, I retort with equal justice that the terrestrial senses of the Earth-dwellers are devoid of reason.”

So, the use of the thought experiment is to clarify a feature of the real world. It is a consistent abstraction that gets closer to reality. A narrative, on the other hand, is an inconsistent fantasy that leads away from reality. This is what science fiction does. It is therefore misleading to call Kepler an inventor of science fiction or a storyteller.

“Like any currency of value, the human imagination is a coin with two inseparable sides. It is our faculty of fancy that fills the disquieting gaps of the unknown with the tranquilizing certitudes of myth and superstition, that points to magic and witchcraft when common sense and reason fail to unveil causality. But that selfsame faculty is also what leads us to rise above accepted facts, above the limits of the possible established by custom and convention, and reach for new summits of previously unimagined truth. Which way the coin flips depends on the degree of courage, determined by some incalculable combination of nature, culture, and character.”

Right, there is progressive use of abstraction and regressive use. The latter is characteristic of economics. Economic storytelling is not applied to enlighten the general public but to deceive it. The deeper reason is that economics is not a science but for 200+ years now political agenda pushing in the mantle of science. Economics suffers since the founding fathers from the Fallacy of Insufficient Abstraction.

“By the time of Astronomia nova, Kepler had ample mathematical evidence affirming Copernicus’s theory. But he realized something crucial and abiding about human psychology: The scientific proof was too complex, too cumbersome, too abstract to persuade even his peers, much less the scientifically illiterate public; it wasn’t data that would dismantle their celestial parochialism, but storytelling.”

It is just the opposite in economics. There is much storytelling but neither mathematical nor empirical evidence for any of the major approaches, i.e. for Walrasianism, Keynesianism, Marxianism, Austrianism, or MMT. Narrative economics is proto-scientific garbage.

For more details see

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke


Related 'How economists became the scientific laughing stock' and 'Econogenics: economists pose a hazard to their fellow citizens' and 'Economics is a science? You must be joking!' and 'The economist as stand-up comedian' and 'Economics: The greatest scientific fraud in modern times' and 'Macroeconomics: Economists are too stupid for science' and 'Links on the Economics Nobel'.

Twitter Dec 29

Source: Twitter