Economics, Literature and Scepticism

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I am a PhD student in Economics. I am originally from South Africa and plan to return there after my PhD. I completed my M. Comm in Economics and my MA In Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Cape Town, where I worked as a lecturer before starting my PhD.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Two Sceptic-worthy Videos

Posted by Simon Halliday | Wednesday, August 19, 2009 | Category: |

Good times. I was nudged to watch the following two videos by 3quarksdaily a blog I've just recently begun to read.

Homeopathy and Nutritionists vs Real Science

Comment: Funny, funny, funny.

Panel Discussion: Dawkins, Tyson, Druyan, Stenger & Grother on 'Science and the Public':

Comment: I had not watched anything with Tyson in it before and I was incredibly happy to hear his views on things, his understanding of the methods of science education (as someone who hasn't studied physics), and his general cutting insight into how things work once you have an education in scientific thinking. One error though - I don't think Physics is the only discipline in which this can be achieved. I believe, strongly, that good social scientists ingrain in their students a bullshit detector which forces the students to search for evidence, gather their understanding of perfect models, and to add complicating factors and methods. One of the errors of some social scientists thought, and economists in particular, is their belief that the 'perfect model' (analogous, I suppose, to the frictionless pulley) is something to which we should aspire, or something attainable in its perfection. For example, perfect competition is unattainable, but it serves as an interesting thought experiment and disciplines your thinking as an economist when considering problems of asymmetric information, industrial organisation, and a host of other problems. But we shouldn't cling to some of its normative predictions as Ayn Rand worshipers tend to do as if it does or should reflect reality. Social scientists, seem, therefore, to be less humble about their perfect models, and its something I hope that we move away from in the future. Druyan uses the word 'spiritual' far too often and I don't know what she means by it. Dawkins is good as always. Stenger doesn't say too much, but still interesting when he does, funny too.

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