Is economics more "scientific" than science?
By Scott Sumner
Here’s The Economist:
In recent years medicine, psychology and genetics have all been put under the microscope and found wanting. One analysis of 100 psychology papers, published last year, for instance, was able to replicate only 36% of their findings. And a study conducted in 2012 by Amgen, an American pharmaceutical company, could replicate only 11% of the 53 papers it reviewed.
Now it is the turn of economics. . . .
In a paper just published in Science, Colin Camerer of the California Institute of Technology and a group of colleagues from universities around the world decided to check. They repeated 18 laboratory experiments in economics whose results had been published in the American Economic Review and the Quarterly Journal of Economics between 2011 and 2014.
For 11 of the 18 papers (ie, 61% of them) Dr Camerer and his colleagues found a broadly similar effect to whatever the original authors had reported. That is below the 92% replication rate they would have expected had all the original studies been as statistically robust as the authors claimed–but by the standards of medicine, psychology and genetics it is still impressive.
Any thoughts on why economics is more scientific than science?
PS. I’m being provocative here. I actually think debates over what is or isn’t scientific are silly. The debates implicitly assume that science is a well understood concept, and we need only figure out whether economics fits into the category, whereas the opposite is more nearly true. There is also an implicit assumption that science is better than non-science, which is like saying the planet Venus is “better” than the planet Mars. By what criterion? Why should economists care if it’s a science?
North and South Korea both have enough “science” to build a nuclear bomb (although the South chose not to do so) but the two governments clearly have different levels of economic expertise.