We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Partly because of our temperamental skepticism, and partly from knowing the history of science (consisting of one discarded theory after another), we are interested in thinking about the idea (or is it a religion) of Scientism.
When I decided on a scientific career, one of the things that appealed to me about science was the modesty of its practitioners. The typical scientist seemed to be a person who knew one small corner of the natural world and knew it very well, better than most other human beings living and better even than most who had ever lived. But outside of their circumscribed areas of expertise, scientists would hesitate to express an authoritative opinion. This attitude was attractive precisely because it stood in sharp contrast to the arrogance of the philosophers of the positivist tradition, who claimed for science and its practitioners a broad authority with which many practicing scientists themselves were uncomfortable...
One more quote:
Is scientism defensible? Is it really true that natural science provides a satisfying and reasonably complete account of everything we see, experience, and seek to understand — of every phenomenon in the universe? And is it true that science is more capable, even singularly capable, of answering the questions that once were addressed by philosophy? This subject is too large to tackle all at once. But by looking briefly at the modern understandings of science and philosophy on which scientism rests, and examining a few case studies of the attempt to supplant philosophy entirely with science, we might get a sense of how the reach of scientism exceeds its grasp.
It's interesting that, according to falsifiability, Climate Change as a science is essentially dead. Of course, so is Macroeconomics as a science.
Interestingly, many good economists would likely agree Macroeconomics is nothing more than a conceptual framework and hardly a science at all. Microeconomics, on the other hand, has plenty of science and proof to back it up in controlled experiments.
The other part which I found myself agreeing with the author is that the last laugh does lie with the philosophers. Even in Economics (as a whole) the focus has been more on determining how to make it more of a science and less about a philosophical framework.
The Austrian School has spent more time hammering out the philosophy, rather than the math and science. Why? Because there is meaning in that part of the practice.
I spent years studying models and formulas, being taught that eventually it will all be solved. Yet over time, it became increasingly clear that not all things are capable of being 'solved' nor was it even clear they should be 'solved'. Rather, it was more about making a determination about what was right in your particular case given the circumstances of whatever situation you faced.
Hayek spent time discussing this in The Fatal Conceit, that a "pretense of knowledge" was often a dangerous thing.
It's hard to get past that pretense, however. When you "know" something....you just "know" it.
Which is why I've often (not always) moved my discussions away from "you're wrong and here's why" to "Maybe, but you need to consider". After all, there's plenty left in life to consider.
Ultimately everything comes down to what works and what's right for you personally.
A friend recently got upset with me during one of our discussions because I refused to fit into her model of what was Left/Right or give her concrete answers on why certain things in government "had to be". I pointed out to her that if it works for her, great, but it's hard to justify a belief system that forces everyone else to believe what you believe just because you believe it.
Better to believe what you believe and hope others come to the realization on their own (with some gentle nudging) that a place near yours is pretty good. Otherwise, c'est la vie.
I see Hawking's position as somewhat problematic. After all, if he's wrong, and philosophy is not dead, and his brand of science doesn't end up at the eventual "theory of everything" (and I doubt it will), then he's left struggling with the fact that he convinced millions of people that his superior intellect was fundamentally flawed in a fairly substantial way. Not wrong, by any stretch, but certainly not as absolutely right as he thought.
Excellent article, and timely. "Science" as the dogmatic, insular special interest its become, is increasingly confronted by phenomenon that have scientists issuing statements of anything between wholesale editing of previous tenants to flat-out admissions of defeat.
Nice comment as well, Bulldog. Hawking not that long ago effectively recanted on black holes, so there's that. We can add this to the abject ongoing failure of cosmology's standard model, which includes renewed controversy about foolish notions about dark matters and energies, miraculous Bangs producing universes, and mystical particles that power other things.
There is science and there is "art" and of course everything in between which is part of both. Math is science, most math. Economics is an art, a philosophy, a set of observations, common sense and desire. The biggest problem with economics is that we are dealing with humans who have free will and vested interests and with a mostly chaotic system. Economics can tell us what could be, what should be and even what is likely, but it cannot prevent human desire and interests from perverting the outcome to benefit themselves. All of the sciences and arts inbetween suffer from more or less these same human factors and of course the unknowns and unknowables. It isn't suprising that the softer sciences are so often wrong or that so many who pursue a career in them are often wrong or discover nothing useful; it is suprising considering the lack of concrete rules and truths, that we humans can so often be right. Your doctor is usually correct in their diagnoses and treatment. There is no economic event both good and bad that has not been predicted and explained well enough to understand how to avoid it or to achieve it. But in the soft sciences there is so much that can go wrong or defy logic and experience. 2+2 will always equal 4 but a cough and sore throat will not always respond to two aspirins and a call back in the morning. We are about to relive some very bad economic history because we choose to not learn from past history. But that does not mean every economist was wrong or that economic theory is wrong. It simply means our leaders are human and they have been very busy enriching themselves and their cronies at our expense. Now, someone must pay for that mistake and I'm pretty sure it will not be those who made the mistake(s) or benefitted from it.
"Is it really true that natural science provides a satisfying and reasonably complete account of everything we see, experience, and seek to understand — of every phenomenon in the universe?"
No, Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem guarantees it.