CAMREC: science

From: the Campaign for Real Economics (
Date: Wed Feb 21 2001 - 00:12:45 GMT

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    Date: Tue, 20 Feb 2001 16:12:45 -0800 (PST)
    Subject: CAMREC: science

    Hi Bruce,

    finally I have managed to read your paper on formal
    systems and science ;-)
    Let me pose a question I had to endure from my PhD
    supervisors just to make sure I find some good answers
    after the fact. Like although you can increase the
    grain/exactness of research by e.g. using agent based
    modeling can you justify the associated increase in
    necessary work? In the end you end up rebuilding

    What follows are a list of examples for parctical
    application - could be illustrative examples to get an
    intuitive feeling
    Where would you put GE according to your tell-tale
    criteria? Where the evolutionary approach a la Nelson
    and Winter - if you happen know it? the
    behavioral/cybernetic appraoch to organizations a la
    March, Simon? Where the work of Brian Arthur on
    increasing returns and later on (together with Doyne
    Farmer and others, I think) ecologies of strategies in
    financial markets?
    What about game theory? And Econophysics? Just pick
    some examples.

    You claim that there is too much a priori
    formalization - good! I agree. But how can I prove
    this to a mainstream economist? And if I prove it, how
    can I change his actual research behavior? He will
    claim that he is in contact with people involved in
    practical problems or is involved with them himself -
    how to get the equivalent of field ecologists or
    practical physicists/chemists in economics?

    I think in practice there is another problem here:
    science as enterprise vs. science as calling:
    You can justify any theoretical system by potential
    future use/knowledge it offers (thats the scientific
    side just driven by the glowing need to figure sth out
    and it might be that this little piece of knowledge
    becomes important later on) and kill it with
    efficiency arguments (thats the engineering side). 'We
    can do this project for ministry, council, whatever
    xyz without all that theoretical ado, get some data,
    interpret them, sell it to the
    politicians/bureaucrats, go to the next project - is
    that applied science or is it a form of science-based
    but more engineering oriented enterprise?
    In the later form you need theory only to sell your
    product, but then you need it as a differentiated
    product to have a unique selling proposition or as a
    guide to methods. Which might explain your impression
    that there is too much scientific (?) formalization.
    But the the problem might be even more general: one of
    people the main message has been watered down and it
    becomes fruitless, but everyone believes it - then its
    not science but ideology...
    So are we all (more or less) priests of one (or more)
    Best wishes

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