Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
That is why my first post on this thread was about making a separation between hard-sciences (where no simplifications at all are made in order to study nature

That version of "hard science" went out of style a couple of centuries ago and was declared definitively dead by the time people started doing quantum mechanics in a serious way (not because of anything special about quantum mechanics - it just involves a lot of non-separable PDEs, and non-seperable PDEs are usually not analytically solvable, so you have to do approximations).

Almost nobody does physics today about anything without significant simplifications.

But their core argument is sound. Evolution is a theory and the correct intellectual stance is to try to challenge it (not in the way they do it).

Of course. In the same sense and to the same extent that one should test the germ theory of disease, if you dislike the use of universal gravity as an example. But I propose that this is also true for universal gravity (it was in fact tested and found to be incomplete; general relativity supersedes it in several notable cases).

In the field of economics (which I don't know that much) the mainstream seems to be some form of neoconservativism (the only way to get published in top journals?). More, should we talk about computational models and quantitative finance (maybe in the light of current events)? Economics is peer reviewed like everything else we talked about here (and with lots of cool math authority like game theory and such), but do you take it as "the word"?

Part of the difference is that whenever I dig out a theory in physics and shake it to see how much of it falls off, it seems to be on the level. On the few occasions where I have attempted to take a good, hard look at economic theories, I have with disquieting frequency come to the conclusion that it's full of crap (most notably the theory of how stock markets operate - actually that's Migeru's conclusion, but I can follow his logic and from what I can see it's sound).

Another important part is that I often see people with fancy degrees from various and sundry bizniz schools who are supposed to be literate in economics use numbers to support their argument in a way that would have gotten a master student in physics kicked out on his ass from any half-way respectable university.

Finally, I simply disagree with defining economics as a science independent of political underpinnings. Unlike physics - which works because the world enforces various rules upon us - economics works because society enforces various rules upon us (consider, for instance, how economics would look if society did not enforce the rule that people are not generally allowed to kill other people).

Since those rules are inherently political, the rules that are explored by economists are more than likely to be substantially influenced by political decisions (and, of course, vice versa). This adds a layer of variability that is not found in the natural sciences (and provides a feedback between our understanding of the phenomena and the way the phenomena behave that is definitely not present in natural science).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Aug 7th, 2008 at 12:44:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]

That version of "hard science" went out of style a couple of centuries ago and was declared definitively dead by the time people started doing

I think I've explained myself wrong.
As far as I remember you can only solve analytically the energy equations for an electron and a proton (and even so I suppose the story doesn't end here - by my knowledge of physics ends), from that point onwards you used ab-initio methods, then, when the system gets too big semi-empirical methods, then Newtonian mechanics, then you are out of computational biochemistry... The bigger the system you study the bigger the number of unknowns.

This grading can be roughly seen in sciences:
basic physics, chemistry, biochemistry, medicine/biology, economy/sociology.

The degree of "fuzyness" and unknown increases as you go along the line. The bigger the "fuzzyness" the large the space for creeping in of human cultural factors.

You can see that in biology where, though evolution is consensual then the role of selection, competition, mutualism or neutrality are far from being consensual (and if you look at the buzzwords, you see that they can be highly influenced by politics and society).

The space for gross mistakes induced by culture increases exponentially as you go along that line (heck, in things like biology, sociology and economy, the scientific process in itself in participating in changing the whole picture in itself).

Black swans everywhere...

by t-------------- on Thu Aug 7th, 2008 at 01:02:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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