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Is Economics a science? That question has been the source of debate ever since economics has been studied. The sporadic debates over time have thus far resulted in more polarization of each camp rather than a common answer to the question. Personally I think its a matter of choice. Just like religion. Recently the debate surfaced again in the wake of the Nobel prizes awarded in October. Robert Shiller, one of the laureates, summarizes the basis for the arguments well. On one side there are the people who think economists use mathematics to make economic models look scientifically elegant while others argue that because of the political side of economics, the science behind it is sometimes blinded from public view. I think that economics is a science but not because of the mathematics or for its economic models but rather because of the logic it encompasses.

Most of the great discoveries of science have come from the use of logic. It is the basis of the “pure sciences”. Logic makes use of reasoning. There is a reasoning behind Newton’s laws that came from observations and calculations. The basic essence of scientific research is hypothesizing, experimentation and analysis. Formulating a hypothesis requires reasoning. Economics too uses reasoning to explain many every day activities. A simple example would be price. As price goes up demand falls. Its a simple logic. More complex ones would be the reasoning behind trade patterns developed by Krugman.

Economics is multidisciplinary and has its roots from the pure sciences.Economic equilibrium comes from the concept of equilibrium in physics. Economics has branches in almost all fields that you can think of. For example behavioural economics makes use of psychology. Recently I discovered there was also Biological economics, Economics & human biology whereby scientists make use of economic models to explain the use of resources by living things in the environment. Of course there is also chemical economics, economic geography, environmental economics etc…. This multidisciplinary characteristic of economics links it back to the “characteristic” of the pure sciences whereby there is computer science (the use of physics and mathematics), Biophysics, Biochemistry etc…

The third point makes use of some biological terminology. Since all living things are made up of cells and that a group of cells make up an organ and a group of organ makes up a living thing and all living things together makes up the environment; what economics is really studying is the environment and inside this environment there are living things which can be broken down to their cells. In short economics is trying to explain the “business behaviour” of the environment. Isn’t that what the sciences try to do? Biology explains the “biological behaviour” of the environement. Chemistry explains the “inner chemical workings of the environment” and physics explains all the “motions of matter” within that environment. All makes use of mathematics and to some degree, if you search the net, they are all criticized to making use of too elegant mathematical models.Once one of my professors said something along these lines “don’t look at the mathematics if the logic being described makes no sense”.

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PS: A rapid search online reveals that the LSE has a “Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method” which offers “BSc Philosophy & Economics”. You might also want to check out this blog Economic Logic. And if you are really nerdy you might wanna look at this website which surveys the use of the term “Economic logic”.  Lastly this course : Logic and Economics.

 

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