Re: But in the purely theoretical sense...

Posted by Dale on Mar 13, 2002 at 09:22

Re: But in the purely theoretical sense... (bobbapink)

It was actually Roseís reply that convinced me they might be the same science using different names. Both use mathematical models and selective macro-level variables. Both deal with aggregate outcomes of seemingly random events. Both lack to some extent (economics less so) the opportunity to test their theories in controled laboratory settings.

I guess Iím just more pragmatic and see economics as a far more useful ďscienceĒ than climatology. For example, in 1980 we get the Laffer Curve predicting that tax rates are too high and, if we lower them, this will result in more income to the government rather than less. This would seem counterintuitive and the best of looking at cause and effect to come up with a new theory that makes unexpected predictions. So we try it and sure enough tax revenues soar. The Laffer Curve was right and all those who predicted a decrease in revenue with a decrease in tax rates were wrong. Now that we know the Laffer Curve is a correct approximation to tax rate/tax revenue, we know more than we did before. But how can we use it? The problem is, we have the theory of a curve shape but we have no specific points on the curve and we intuitively know that the curve changes all the time. There are some points in history where you just know which side of the curve you are on but you canít pin numbers to the curve. Not much of a science but better than casting lots.

Climatology, on the other hand, has even less going for it. We donít have clear true/false predictions that can be tested in any reasonable amount of time. We get predictions on every side of every issue. Even if someone had discovered a Laffer Curve type relationship of one variable to the climate, and even if the data showed a correlation, it would be meaningless because there are predictions of everything and many are going to be right simply from a statistical standpoint.

I think the real difference between the two is in the seriousness of the science. The economists develop their models and publish them and discuss them and most are wrong and that is that. The climatologists, on the other hand, throw dust in the air, scream and howl, throw together a model, scream some more and jump and dance, warn that if their model is not accepted it is the end of the world, and howl at any dissent. (Note: I am speaking of all sides.) This isnít science Ė this is a battle between baboon troops.

Climatology COULD be a far more accurate science than economics because it deals with inanimate objects but at this point it is far less. Economics always has to consider psychology. The random events in climatology should be accountable just as we handle the uncertainties of quantum theory. But climatology is mired in a political swamp with few who have an interest in climbing out. At least economics recognizes its political side and tries to keep it under control.

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