Doesn’t this just bugger over science itself then?

Peter Dawe says:
January 14 2018 at 2:11 pm
A Political Economist is one that chooses their facts to support their political views. An economist looks at the facts and tells us the political basis of the system they are looking at.

Reply
Richard Murphy says:
January 14 2018 at 3:22 pm
I am afraid to say that is only the opinion of neoliberal economists Peter

They do claim that

But there is not a single economists in the world who looks at facts objectively – because that is not possible

We all choose our facts – and we have to do so – there is too much evidence to choose from without selection bias ever being a factor

Explaining the universe is a bit of a problem then, eh?

29 comments on “Doesn’t this just bugger over science itself then?

  1. Political science uses no science.

    In Murph’s case, he uses politics to dismiss economists.

    I self identify as a political biologist.

  2. ‘Facts’ means different things in different fields.

    I have been told, more than once (by barristers) that the Judge decides the facts of a case. I;d believe that he could decide sometimes between fact and supposition, or between facts that have a bearing, and those that don’t, or between expressed opinions which he believes, but surely facts are facts, and no-one’s opinions changes them.

    What I often find is that what people accept as fact is just plain wrong.

  3. I’m not sure Murph hasn’t actually tripped over a truism there. Economists, in the singular, do tend to choose their facts to suit their hypotheses. But, then, it’s hard to find a field where this isn’t the case. Climate science certainly doesn’t qualify.
    Surely, isn’t this the result of where people get paid for having opinions? It encourages people to have opinions that pay.

    Not saying the Murph’s a stranger to this phenomenon. I suspect the Murph would retail you any opinion you wanted. By the kilo.

  4. Yes, it is a bit of a problem. Scott Adams gets into at least the shallows of this in his latest book (well worth a read).

  5. Looking at facts objectively is simply not possible, Richard? Perhaps, in the sense that human perfection is not possible; but still, becoming able to state facts objectively is the very goal of science, which involves experimentation, including experiments that might disprove your assumptions. Stating that all economists are propagandists is the work of one propagandist hiding inside the excuse that everyone does it.

    John Lott states that he originally set out to show the correlation between prevalence of gun ownership and mayhem using guns – until the data didn’t cooperate.

    No indeed, Tim, developing coherent explanations of things is not a problem at all; provided one is willing to discard explanations shown to be incoherent.

  6. I hate to agree with the Ritchie but he does have a point. Confirmation bias is a chronic disease that affects all human beings, scientists included. Some scientists, such as the great Richard Feynman, try very hard to be objective but most fail and many don’t try. This is why we have so much policy related evidence as opposed to evidence related policy and this occurs both in politics and in science.

    We all give greater weight to the evidence that supports our own prejudice and less weight to evidence that contradicts it. Hence some people read the Daily Mail whilst others read the Guardian.

    As a scientist I appreciate that science is a very long term enterprise in which the truth eventually emerges despite lunatics like Lysenko. However it can take a very long time for the light to dawn or for those who were wrong to die out. Examples being the germ theory of disease, the theory of continental drift and even the cause of peptic ulcers.

    I suspect that economics is similar although rather more difficult than the hard sciences since it involves trying to predict what unpredictable human beings will do.

  7. Politics for such as Polly and Snippa is definitely a science :the science of causing the greatest misery for the greatest number

  8. I think that it was Prof John Brignell who reckoned that putting “climate” or “political” in front of “science” was the same as putting “witch” in front of “doctor”.

  9. To elaborate on what Mr Dent says, very often it’s not individual conformation bias but institutional conformation bias. Research may be entirely genuine. But the direction research takes depends on the funding of research. Research in one direction may suit the current preferred paradigm & receive funding. Research that might challenge it be less popular & receive less or no funding. It produces evidence based policy but with incomplete evidence.

  10. I thought “I wonder what Richard Feynman would have thought of that statement.”

    But then I thought, if I met the great man and gave him a Dick Murphy Quote, he’d just laugh and reach for the bongos.

  11. Excavator man – facts are not presented in a court case. Viewpoints, opinions, data, photographs etc are presented.
    Two sides, each has stuff supporting their view. Obviously an alleged rapist either raped or did not rape the person concerned – a binary solution where only one result is allowed. Whether its the factual result isn’t an issue.

  12. I think the difference between Murphy and most of us is that we try to fit our understanding and thence our theory to fit the facts we observe whereas Murphy seeks to find facts to fit his theory, and, if that fails, he makes up “facts” to fit his theory.
    I accept Arthur Dent’s view that we tend to accept “facts” that fit our pre-existing view and query those that contradict it but nearly all of us will accept a slap in the face from reality and accept it if we had really got it wrong.

  13. @Spike -“Perhaps, in the sense that human perfection is not possible;” Please don’t disabuse the potato he already thinks he is.

  14. I’m not sure Murph hasn’t actually tripped over a truism there. Economists, in the singular, do tend to choose their facts to suit their hypotheses

    Yes, he does have a point. The only reason the hard sciences are not jokes like Sociology is because actual science can be (mostly) demonstrated and proved to be false or true. It’s difficult in a free society to insist that A is true when the world can physically demonstrate that it isn’t. The further a discipline is removed from this mechanism, the more of a joke it will be. Economics is about half way on this spectrum.

  15. ‘I have been told, more than once (by barristers) that the Judge decides the facts of a case.’

    It is true. The judge sifts through all that is presented, and determines what the facts are.

    In a jury trial, the jury decides what the facts are.

    Then, in either case, the judge applies the law to said facts.

  16. Gamecock – “I self identify as a political biologist.”

    This week has seen the emergence of Critical Statistics. A group of mainly British mathematicians who think that for too long mathematics has been unaware of its position in the construction of oppression and privilege.

    But then biology always was political. When Lewontin dismissed race as a concept, he did not do so on scientific grounds. Nor when Stephen Jay Gould, among many others, attacked E. O. Wilson. Or committed fraud in the Mismeasure of Man for that matter.

    However facts that the researcher cannot explain are central to Thomas Kuhn’s The Structures of Scientific Thought. Which may or may not be true. But if anyone claims scientists do not have a problem with facts that do not fit their theory, they are denying the main model for how science actually works.

  17. Mr. Dent, a reason economics is “rather more difficult than the hard sciences” may be, not that “it involves trying to predict what unpredictable human beings will do” but that it is mostly undertaken to get unwilling human beings to do things.

    Yes, widespread understanding that truly free and independent inquiry will make grant funding dry up is responsible for most of our Climate Science.

    Moqifen – Point taken.

  18. He’s right, in a way. Science can sift through data and work out the facts, but there isn’t a scientific method to tell you which data is worth sifting through. Science doesn’t help you choose which facts to study.

    Science attempts to minimise subjectivity, but if you delve a bit into neurology, psychology (or even primatology – I just read Frans de Waal’s “The Bonobo and the Atheist”) you realise that it’s an uphill battle!

  19. I don’t think science can get holier than thou given the ongoing replication crisis. From Wiki, but it gives a flavour:

    According to a 2016 poll of 1,500 scientists reported in the journal Nature, 70% of them had failed to reproduce at least one other scientist’s experiment (50% had failed to reproduce one of their own experiments). These numbers differ among disciplines:[5]

    chemistry: 90% (60%),
    biology: 80% (60%),
    physics and engineering: 70% (50%),
    medicine: 70% (60%),
    Earth and environment science: 60% (40%).
    In 2009, 2% of scientists admitted to falsifying studies at least once and 14% admitted to personally knowing someone who did. Misconducts were reported more frequently by medical researchers than others.[6]

  20. Was that really Peter Dawe? The millionaire friend of spud that’s paying the bills for Progressive Pustule? I guess so as Ritchie will know the email address.

    Even Ritchie’s “friends” think he’s a cunt!

  21. @Sam Jones,

    Yes, believe it or not, that’s him. Ritchie only counts him as a friend as he’s loaded.

  22. “I think the difference between Murphy and most of us is that we try to fit our understanding and thence our theory to fit the facts we observe whereas Murphy seeks to find facts to fit his theory, and, if that fails, he makes up “facts” to fit his theory.”

    Heh!

    “I accept Arthur Dent’s view that we tend to accept “facts” that fit our pre-existing view and query those that contradict it but nearly all of us will accept a slap in the face from reality and accept it if we had really got it wrong.”

    Not that I noticed. 🙂

    “I don’t think science can get holier than thou given the ongoing replication crisis. From Wiki, but it gives a flavour:

    According to a 2016 poll of 1,500 scientists reported in the journal Nature, 70% of them had failed to reproduce at least one other scientist’s experiment (50% had failed to reproduce one of their own experiments).”

    That’s not surprising – it’s because people fundamentally misunderstand the purpose of scientific journals.

    Science depends on criticism and challenge. Every scientist has their own psychological blindspots and biases, so they depend on other scientists with *different* blindspots to check their work. That’s what the journals are for. They collate interesting results in the field for other scientists to check, replicate, debunk, extend, generalise, explain, or discuss the implications of.

    They’re not *intended* to be taken as conclusive, proven, certain, “gold standard”, or final. All you’re doing is putting your proposal into the arena to see if it survives. All peer review does is perform an initial crude sift to pick out the ones that are even worth bothering to look at and try to pick apart. The journals don’t contain “settled science” – to the extent that anything does, that’s the function of textbooks.

    The problem *isn’t* that half the journal papers are not replicable, it’s that there were certain people going around telling us we should expect/assume they *were*.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean you can therefore dismiss all journal papers as false out of hand. The point of publishing them is so that critics can find the flaws and counter-evidence and publish them in response. Evidence can only be trumped by *better* evidence.

  23. @NiV
    Are you accepting my comment or trying to reject it on the basis of zero evidence by saying “Not that I noticed”?

    FYI no-one has.refuted any of *my* journal papers – which seems odd but may just be because I am so boring

  24. @blokeingermany.
    I have not read Adams latest, but his writing was the first thing I thought of when I read this.

    Adams blog on how Clinton and Trump supporters are “watching the same screen but seeing 2 different movies” highlights how we choose to interpret the same facts to fit our bias.

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