Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Chris House's Idea of Science

I mentioned Chris House's model of science in a previous post. But now I want to comment on a different aspect of its oddity. (And my goal here is not to pick on House, but on the view of science he has presented, because I think it is too common.) If you recall, House's model is this:
The scientific method goes something like this: 
Formation of hypotheses
If you can follow these steps then anything (even economics! even macroeconomics!) can be studied scientifically.  When economics is at its best it truly is a science. 
The aspect I wish to point out in this post is that ever achieving any success at explaining anything plays no part, for House, on whether any endeavor is scientific.

Want to do "scientific" astrology?

* Observe that the planets, moon, and sun move around in the sky relative to the "fixed stars."
* Form an hypothesis: "When the moon is in the seventh house / And Jupiter aligns with Mars / Then peace will guide the planets / And love will steers the stars."
* Test the above.
* Form new hypothesis: "When the moon is in the second house / And Saturn aligns with Venus / Then war will guide the planets / And hate will steer the stars."

Obviously, one can go on like this forever, and according to House, what one is doing "truly is a science."

Similarly, macroeconomics should not be judged on whether it ever achieves any major successes. So long as it keeps following the above steps, it is a science.

This strikes me as idolatry of method over results.


  1. Magic crystal revelation!

    Explanatory power can be tricky though. Does the exclusion principle explain? But I think its the predictive power that makes it an explanation, rather than jus a relabelling of the observed effect. It becomes a redployable mental tool.

    1. Are you talking Pauli here?

    2. "But I think its the predictive power that makes it an explanation..."

      I think the theory of evolution is a tremendous scientific theory. But it really doesn't do much predicting, but more so a whole lotta explaining. But a fantastic theory nonetheless.

    3. "Are you talking Pauli here?"


    4. Defining science is a bit like prescriptive grammar. You can get close but you can't get there; the roadmap stops where you are.

  2. Yes this is a great post.


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