Archives for posts with tag: Falsifiability

“How absurd to imagine that something we can make could actually deliver us from problems we could not free ourselves from!”
Dr. Allen Ross, Dead Idols or the Living God

According to Abraham Maslow, people’s lives are ‘staged’.
During the first four, each individual ‘must’ – ‘inside’ whatever circumstances Mother Luck had granted them, provide for their ‘needs’.
Only after they had reached the fifth stage, individuals have the opportunity – but no ‘obligation’ other than that each of them impose upon themselves, to ‘reinvent’ their own personae. Maslow had used ‘self-actualization’ to describe the process.

In religious terms, the whole thing is known as ‘coming to peace with oneself’.

No more ‘absurdity’ here!
There’s so much each of us can do in order to move ‘forward’…

‘And where is this famous ‘forward’?!? How are we, individually and/or collectively, to determine which is the ‘good’ direction?!?’

Is our ‘imagination’ good enough to come up with a solution for the “problems we could not free ourselves from”?

The carpenter measures with a line

    and makes an outline with a marker;

he roughs it out with chisels

    and marks it with compasses.

He shapes it in human form,

    human form in all its glory,

    that it may dwell in a shrine.

He cut down cedars,

    or perhaps took a cypress or oak.

He let it grow among the trees of the forest,

    or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow.

 It is used as fuel for burning;

    some of it he takes and warms himself,

    he kindles a fire and bakes bread.

But he also fashions a god and worships it;

    he makes an idol and bows down to it.

Half of the wood he burns in the fire;

    over it he prepares his meal,

    he roasts his meat and eats his fill.

He also warms himself and says,

    “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.”

From the rest he makes a god, his idol;

    he bows down to it and worships.

He prays to it and says,

    “Save me! You are my god!”

Is ‘induction’ a comprehensive enough solution?
Or ‘too much of a good thing’ will never fail to become ‘bad for you’?

Confused?

Let me put it another way.

‘One size fits all’.
How many times have you been really satisfied by such a ‘solution’?
Do you really think an ‘idol’ fashioned by a carpenter – by the most talented carpenter, even, will ever satisfy the needs of at least one blacksmith?

‘But how about the idols fashioned by Plato’s king-priests?’

To answer this question – this excellent question, if I may say so myself, we must turn back to Dr. Allen Ross’ Dead Idols. To the difference between the Dead Idols and the Living God, to be more precise.

‘Criterion for what?’

If you pay close enough attention to what’s written above, you’ll notice that not passing the falsifiability test doesn’t mean than an assertion is false! Far from it, actually!
Not passing the falsifiability test – ‘if a claim is compatible with all and any states of affairs’, only means that that claim is both ‘true’ and unscientific! Simultaneously true and not scientific!

‘And what has any of these to do with God?!? With the Living God or with any of the Dead Idols humankind has built for itself? And later discarded?’

I’m afraid you’ll have to come back for the answers.
Or, to put it differently, I’ll gladly welcome you back!

The current spate of dissent on this subject has been spurred by this guy, Angus Deaton, being presented with The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel

“A Nobel prize in economics implies that the human world operates much like the physical world: that it can be described and understood in neutral terms, and that it lends itself to modelling, like chemical reactions or the movement of the stars. It creates the impression that economists are not in the business of constructing inherently imperfect theories, but of discovering timeless truths.”

I’m afraid that the author had been so disgusted by the obvious mistakes that have been committed by so many of the supposedly reputable economists of this world that he has become amenable to throwing out the baby along with the bath water.

First of all we must remember that “Science is wrong. By definition.” All theories are imperfect and there is no such thing as ‘timeless truths’.
Ever since Karl Popper introduced the idea of ‘falsifiability’ as the litmus test for determining if any piece of information has any scientific value and Berger & Luckmann noticed “The Social Construction of Reality” it had become apparent both that science is being updated constantly – hence always ‘wrong’, or at least incomplete – and that people are ‘doing science’ on purpose – hence any discussion about reality being ‘described and understood in neutral terms’ is unrealistic, to say the least.

Coming back to Popper, Hermann Bondi had declared that ‘There is no more to science than its method, and there is no more to its method than Popper has said.’
True enough but as any ‘scientific declaration’ this is highly ‘updatable’.

In fact Science is, above all, a human enterprise. It’s a human that picks up – or devises – which method to use in a certain situation when he wants to find out something about a certain subject. Furthermore that method is applied by human individuals, not by robots. The same as those who had chosen it or by others, doesn’t make much difference. And, at the end of the cycle, some other people will evaluate – and sometimes try to replicate – the results.

So the mere fact that a certain set of results could not have been replicated by a certain team of evaluators doesn’t mean that much, by itself. This has been silently acknowledged by Andrew C. Chang and Philip Li in a paper published by the Federal Reserve in 2015: “Is Economics Research Replicable? Sixty Published Papers from Thirteen Journals Say ”Usually Not””. The couple admitted they needed some help from the original authors to replicate the results in a few instances and in some-others they didn’t have access to the same computer software as the first publishers.

But the most interesting fact is that in no instance the authors have been able to positively determine that the results published in any of the analyzed papers are inconsistent with the data presented by the original authors and/with the method invoked. In all instances when they failed to replicate the original results that happened because the original authors didn’t present at all the initial sets of data, they were incomplete or the method/sofware used to  process that data was incomplete, altogether missing or proprietary. And all this despite in some cases the papers being published by journals specifically requesting that all data/methods/software being made available at the moment of publication.

In this situation I find the conclusion reached as being both correct and highly objectionable. And above all lacking any scientific value.
“Because we successfully replicate less than half of the papers in our sample even with assistance from the authors, we conclude that economics research is usually not replicable.”

Yes, it seems that too many papers published by presumably reputable journals are not replicable. But that is due exclusively to the journals themselves not observing their own rules or by some of the authors acting less than ‘over the table’. This phenomenon has nothing to do with ‘economics’ being less of a science than, say, physics and everything to do with humans being… well… human!

Let me go back to where I started, to Joris Luyendijk claim that “Don’t let the Nobel prize fool you. Economics is not a science.”
The author ‘illustrates’ his claim by remembering the infamous LTCM – a hedge fund set up by, among others, a couple of economists who had received a … you guessed it… a ‘Nobel prize for economics’ less than a year before the hedge fund went bust. Kind of ironic, isn’t it?
But the problem remains. The fact that LTCM went bust doesn’t prove anything except the fact that its management was completely inadequate.
The point is that trying to assert that ‘economics’ is not a science only because some guys used a couple of economic theories and failed, abysmally, is akin to claiming that physics is not a proper science because no weather bulletin is 100 percent accurate. Or that biology is not a full blown science because medicine has not yet found a cure for cancer. Or to claim that chemistry is bogus simply because Big Pharma is ripping us off.

At the end of their paper Chang and Li offer some very pertinent advice about how things could be vastly improved. Their main idea being that everything must be ‘above the table’ – both the raw data and the method/software used to process it must be made available for whomever wants to replicate the results. In fact this exactly what science, real science, is about. People have to be able to check thoroughly whatever the proponents of a theory are trying to ‘peddle’. This is the only way for a theory to be proved true or false. Or incomplete so further research might be declared necessary.

Similarly, at the end of his article Joris Luyendijk points his finger at the real culprit.
In reality economics, as a space where people try to gather information, is different from, say physics, only because we, the people, approach them with different attitudes.
Time has taught us, repeatedly, that every-time we’ve tried to deny the obvious we ended up with a bloody nose. The problem is that not all of us are, yet, able to recognize the obvious.
No one in his right mind will pretend, nowadays, that the Earth is flat. Meanwhile some people still pretend that vaccines may induce autism. They don’t. But some of the ‘anti-Vaxxers’ continue to pretend this even after a study partly funded by themselves demonstrated that there is no link between the two.

As suggested by Luyendijk and demonstrated by these examples the real culprit for what is going on, not only in the economic field, is our arrogance.
Arrogance that has led to the survival of what is known as ‘tehnocratic thinking’ despite more and more people learning of the role ideology plays in our decision making.

After all what can be more arrogant than pretending that you have ‘scientific reasons’ for what you do, despite the obvious fact that every one of us acts according to his own ideology?

I’m not going to pretend now that there are good and bad ideologies. I obviously think they can be classified but I cannot pretend that my classification is the correct one.
But I can pretend, and you should too, along with Joris Luyendijk, Andrew C Chang and Philip Li, that each of us should honestly state its point of view along with his opinion when ever discussing something.

After all each of us having an ideology is a reality while pretending that any of us can act as if it doesn’t is a rather pathetic lie.

To conclude I’ll have to keep the promise I’ve made at the beginning of all this and ‘update’ Bondi’s statement about Popper:
‘There is no more to science than its method and there is no more to its method than Popper has said’ but we should always bear in mind that science is exclusively ‘performed’ by human individuals.

 

This quote is so wrong that it makes me wonder if Neil deGrasse Tyson is even aware of it’s existence…

Karl Popper has long ago produced ample proof that science is true only till proven wrong so it ever being true depends solely on us temporarily believing in it…
Maybe the guy who wrote this should have put it a little differently.
“The good thing about the scientific mind-set is that whenever we find proof to the contrary it makes it easier for us to stop believing an erstwhile scientifically held truth and to go further.”

Karl Popper: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/popper/
Falsifiability: https://explorable.com/falsifiability

%d bloggers like this: