Scientism in the Way of Science

by Gene Callahan

I repeatedly find attacks on positions in the social sciences made based on extremely limited and, frankly, antiquated views of how the physical sciences proceed. I will give one example from a rightist criticism of a leftist view, and one that is a leftist criticism of a rightist view, to illustrate that my point has nothing to do with ideology — or perhaps, that it has to do with the way ideology can lead one to embrace flimsy criticisms of other’s positions.

The first excerpt is from Hunter Lewis’s book, Where Keynes Went Wrong:

“In chapter 15, we saw how Keynes wrote N = F(D), which means that employment, denoted N, is a function of demand. Demand however is defined as expected sales, not actual sales. We noted that expectations are not a measurable quantity and thus do not belong in an equation.”

Well, one way to measure these expectations would be to walk around and ask the entrepreneurs “How much do you expect to sell this year?” then total up those amounts. Why in the world this would not be a fine measurable quantity is unclear. Continue reading

The Marginal Side of the Moon

by Gene Callahan

Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, on the band’s best-selling album, Dark Side of the Moon: “Everyone thought it was the best thing we’d done to date, and everyone was very pleased with it. But there’s no way that anyone felt it was five times as good as Meddle or eight times as good as Atom Heart Mother. The sort of figures it, in fact, sold.”

What Mason has missed is the importance of marginalism. One cannot move from “This album sold five times as many copies as Meddle” to “People think this album is five times as good as Meddle.” If, say, four times as many people as the number who bought Meddle found it fell just 1% shy of being worth buying, then Dark Side of the Moon would only have to be 1% better to sell five times as many records. (I’m assuming, for the sake of discussion, that there is some meaning to calling one piece of music “1% better than” some other piece.)