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    Pseudoscience In The Wall Street Journal Or In Economics?
    By Hank Campbell | April 16th 2012 02:30 AM | 10 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0® and co-author of "Science Left Behind".

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone...

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    Evolution has various mechanisms and one of them is natural selection. While most religious people have no disagreement with science overall, Biblical literalists contend man cannot have changed or evolved.  Some confusion about evolution is understandable - evolution is darn complex - and the disagreement with evolution does not fall strongly into any demographic except the religious. In America, we hear more about 'the religious right' but primarily we hear about them from the secular left - while noting that 39% of Republicans don't accept evolution they fail to mention 30% of Democrats don't either.  Religious people vote for both parties - you don't see candidates on either side debunking religion and because of that, as I have said in the past, atheists are one of those minorities it seems perfectly okay to stereotype.

    Young Earth Creationists aside, a more recent religious idea is termed "Intelligent Design" and unlike simple Young Earth Creationism, they don't deny all evolution but claim scientific evidence for a guiding force that has brought man to where we are today. Yes, evolution happened but not due to a random walk like genetic drift or natural selection or mutation. It was basically part of the plan. I have no problem with anyone wanting to believe that, just a problem with claiming scientific evidence - their scientific evidence has no science, it basically just tries to debunk aspects of evolution - science breakthroughs do not occur by trying to poke holes in existing science, that is what postmodernists do. Science is understanding the world according to natural laws and Intelligent Design does not do that, it only seeks to confuse people about evolution.

    Covering cultural controversies, like a recent law in Tennessee that makes it okay for teachers to "teach the controversy" about evolution and climate change, is likewise difficult because journalists are supposed to be fair - well, old journalists have to be fair.  People expect modern journalists to be doing progressive good works and sometimes when they don't do that, fellow progressives get upset.

    William K. Black, writing at New Economic Perspectives, gets a little conspiratorial fringe-y, contending that Rupert Murdoch, founder, Chairman and CEO of News Corporation, is now walking up to writers at The Wall Street Journal and demanding they contend religion is science. Well, they don't actually do that, if you are anywhere other than the kooky left.  But the WSJ article shows how difficult it can be to cover news objectively when it comes to science.

     The Wall Street Journal is not going to get every article right - I have been wrong too and even Elvis had bad albums - and if I ask an Associate Professor of Law and Economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City what he really knows about adaptive radiation, he is going to give me a blank stare and mumble something about accepting the scientific consensus.  In other words, he believes and, if you read his piece, he believes because the belief is the opposite of religious people, Republicans and the guy who runs the parent company of WSJ. In other words, he is agenda-based and not factual.

    But he should be factual even if he is an economist. America is not about blindly accepting a consensus, America is about critical thinking - that's why Americans don't trust economists, it is also a quasi-religious belief system that uses the past to make guesses about future raptures and apocalypses but being right is really just a matter of luck and people know it.  John Maynard Keynes was a progressive who also believed in social Darwinism and eugenics and all three of his big beliefs have been debunked - so the proponents of a warmed-over Keynesian 'Modern Money Theory' aren't creating anything new.

    Wait. They call it a theory?

    But...but...he writes 
    Biology and “intelligent design” are not rival scientific theories. Biology’s central proposition is evolution. Intelligent design does not rest on the scientific method or scientific evidence. The Discovery Institute is not a “think tank.” It does not engage in hypothesis testing. It does not make testable predictions of “intelligent design.”
    All true, except Intelligent Design sounds a lot like economics.

    In seeking to enhance biology, he diminishes it by noting what a theory is and then using it colloquially, which is the reason the term 'theory' has so little meaning outside science today.  He wants to debunk ID - fair enough, if he knew what he was talking about - and he wants to try  and invoke science legitimacy for his cultural woo.

    Someone claiming to love science screws the pooch scientifically again...
    Thinking about WSJ reporters’ business expertise caused me to ask a question about Tennessee’s law (similar to laws adopted in six other infra-red states) and the WSJ’s reporters approach to a faith-based series of “propositions” advanced by another discipline that calls itself a “science.” 
    Infrared state?  What is that?  He seems to think that is some super deep red, with even more evil Republicans, which is not science at all.  It's silly. But that is creative license - so is the Bible.  Why would he say something so stupid when attempting to make The Wall Street Journal look like they are promoting pseudoscience because The Wall Street Journal wrote an article about a goofy law in Tennessee and never once mentioned the Flying Spaghetti Monster?   Even if we were just talking economics, there are only a few states doing well in the USA - all of them are red states.  So if he actually knows any economics he would be using red as a positive thing but, no, he is determined to be a political kook first and an impartial economist only after slamming people he happens not to like while he endorses real science (wink, wink). And he just happens to include the nonsense he promotes.
    The UMKC economics blog (New Economic Perspective) is an excellent source of alternative, highly interdisciplinary theories that have repeatedly demonstrated superior predictive abilities and praxis. My colleagues’ work on Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and job guarantees are two examples. 
    Wow - an 'excellent source' - it's how homeopathy companies describes their wares, and with just as much science. Then he uses that word theory again.  It doesn't mean what he thinks it means. 

    He can get away with it because economics, like Intelligent Design, has no accountability - only the faithful believe in each and when either is wrong, their high priests dismiss it as some higher power and lay blame everywhere else.  So if you want to believe his 'theory' can guarantee employment and is experimentally repeatable, you deserve the financial disaster you will get, just like if you believed Harold Camping's rapture was coming in 2011 and gave away all your money. It's numerology of a different color but you will still lose all of your green following it.

    Nothing is more tired than conspiratorial hints that if something is on Fox News, or now apparently The Wall Street Journal, it must be dismissed by card-carrying progressive academics.  Poisoning the well is common but science, and even faux science like economics, should leave it to the weird humanities types. This is the same apparently evil WSJ that just held a data transparency weekend to encourage keeping data private.  I haven't seen The Nation sponsoring any of those.

    What Tennessee did is goofy - but it is no more goofy than enacting the economic flavor of the week or using a WSJ article to go on some rant about real science and then claim a woo economic proposition is in the science camp. The Tennessee legislature passed their crazy bill by a wide margin and Tennessee. Gov. Bill Haslam let House Bill 368/Senate Bill 893 pass into law without signing it because a veto was pointless.
    “I do not believe that this legislation changes the scientific standards that are taught in our schools or the curriculum,” Haslam said, adding “I also don’t believe that it accomplishes anything,”...
    I got that quote from the "anti-science" WSJ. Maybe if economists read more than one article over there, they would have a better opinion of it. I bet they never find any flaws in what Paul Krugman writes at the New York Times.  Even economists can do the math on why that is.

    Comments

    Although you are misguided about ID, like most, this didn't affect the quality of the article, which is spot-on.

    I like it, Hank. I had a terrible time in Econ 101. On the fly leaf of the text were the words "Economics is the science of ..."
    When those words had penetrated, there was a flash of photons between my ears that lasted an entire semester.

    They are not rehashing a 'failed model from the 1950s'. The 'failed model from the 1950s' as you call it. Firstly, the economics of the 1950s was 'Neoclassical Synthesis Keynesianism' which is very different from both keynesian economicas as discussed in the General Theory of 1936 and is also very different from the Modern Monetary Theory of 2012.. Secondly, even the 1950s model was not a failure. The world economy grew faster between 1950 and 1970 than ever before or since. There was full employment. There was (prior to the oil price shock of the mid 70s) low inflation. The world economy was rebuilt during two glorious decades of economic development. You really have no idea what you are talking about, and are simply repeating the 'conventional wisdom' of your ideological associates. You accuse the economics professor of not having a strong background in the science of evolution. Your background in the history of economic thought is negligible. I suggest you refer to a useful source such as Professor Bill Mitchell's excellent blog site ('billyblog') and then at least you will be able to comment on economics with some degree of understanding.

    Hank
    It's adorable that you think Keynes was the reason for economic prosperity of the 1950s.  It's silly because you choose to only accept two datapoints.  A bigot could contend the 1950s resulted from blacks not being in the work place.  A sexist could claim it was because women stayed at home and a contractor could claim it was the suburbs.

    If your only metric is two curves going up at the same time, you can correlate anything, like the military-industrial complex or that bringing back the USSR would lead to world prosperity.  Economists contending any of those things are as silly as contending we need to resurrect an economist who thought forced sterilization of minorities would help the planet.
    MikeCrow
    While I approve of the flaying Hank gave you, It doesn't answer why the 50's and 60's were so good, and since I heard a rather clear explanation, I thought I'd pass it along.
    Basically, when WWII was over the US had most of the manufacturing capacity in the world, most of Europe, Japan,  and Russia had been bombed to rubble.

    We didn't have any real competition.
    Never is a long time.
    Hank
    Right, I was giving the short answer.  Keynesian economics and the regulations it brought slowly strangled the economy by micromanaging it.  It used to be, for example, that someone could make a decent living being an elevator operator, but once the rules and regulations became onerous it became cheaper just to just let people push the darn button themselves.   We had a lot fewer homeless people when "flophouses" existed but once the requirement became they all had to have running water and utilities it put people on the street and added more burden to the state.

    $50 an hour janitors and pensions killed the car industry, not capitalism.  When the big three automakers all testified before Congress saying the industry needed a bailout, I just laughed.  But after Ford testified its competitors should take a bailout and then refused to take it, I bought their stock.  Which company was going to be able to negotiate with the unions and which ones, now partially owned by the government and its union, could not?  The answer was simple and a tiny amount of Ford stock bought then will pay for my kid's tuition this fall.

    Keynes failed because it sought to control the money supply and unemployment and a fundamental precept of that was the idea that business exists to be a laboratory for economic policy.
    Gerhard Adam
    $50 an hour janitors and pensions killed the car industry, not capitalism.
    Let's keep in mind that these were negotiated deals between management and the unions, so they were not imposed.  I agree as to the harm it did, but let's be clear that the car companies did this to themselves.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    That's the most optimistic way to frame it.  While the government may be less union-friendly now (because unions only vote one way now) standing up to a union for 60 years was impossible.  Ronald Reagan was able to do it, but only with government employees.  When the baseball strike happened in 1994 and the World Series was canceled, the president told the owners to either settle or he would impose a government arbitrator and 'review' their non-monopoly status - that was a not subtle hint they had to cave into the union and they did.

    US Steel diversified to get completely out of steel because they could not 'negotiate'.  If you think the Teamsters and any business negotiate, well, I am not sure how to respond to that.  If you have ever tried to carry a box into a conference in New York City or Chicago, your inability to do that is not because there was a negotiation and management lost, it was because the private sector was steamrolled by politicians currying votes and money.
    Gerhard Adam
    While there may be some element of truth to that, my experience growing up in Detroit was the perpetual frustration of watching the car companies providing incredible benefits and salaries to employees that the rest of the companies and employees in Detroit began to resent.

    This wasn't the result of coercion, it was the result of being fat, dumb, and happy.  The Big Three was the only place you could go as a high school drop-out and make more money than most managers in any other company.  That certainly wasn't the result of unions, it was the car companies being complacent because they were making a lot of money.

    I saw the same thing in the railroad industry where the union contracts were laughable in what was given away, and there was absolutely no reason for management to have agreed.  This was especially true, when the one railroad was the wholly owned subsidiary of a foreign railroad [headquarter in another country - Canada].  The main problem was that management often took the easy way out and didn't think about down-stream consequences.
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    That certainly wasn't the result of unions,
    We had a lot of auto plants in the area, and I remember hearing how you'd get paid 2-3x for overtime, and once you got in, you were set (pretty much for life) because of the unions.

    So while they might have signed those union contracts because they were making money, they didn't really have a lot of choice, unless they wanted the union to shut them down for some length of time(I saw all of the walkout too).
    Never is a long time.