Friday, April 26, 2013

on religion...,

  • Religion is a set of beliefs for which there is no evidence: these beliefs include god, devil, soul, after-life, original sin, heaven, hell, the 5000 year old flat-earth, and also can include denial of evolution, climate change,  and more. Some of it might be allegory, but many think it is literally true.
  • Science is also a set of beliefs for which there IS evidence:  to verify the results there is a peer-review process, continual refinement. Over the centuries we have learned a lot and benefited in many ways: better medicine, smart technology. We are poorer in that there is much more destructive war, and massive pollution including massive additions of greenhouse gas to the atmosphere.
These are not the only basis for beliefs though:

  • There are politicians, academics, and others who will support any set of beliefs for pay. These are people who are responsible for our dysfunctional institutions, including government. For want of a term, we could call them schills. As Lawrence Lessig points out so well in his book Republic Lost, Congress responds to money.
  • There are many people who believe what they hear without verification: they trust what they hear from their neighbors, internet, news groups,  mass media, or even from Fox news.  Payment for belief is the basis for extreme expense in political campaigns. It can create grass-roots activists for the tobacco industry, the NRA, or even climate denialists. It is the reason for the existence of the very profitable advertising industry.
Reality will win. Science is our best view of reality and is usually our best predictor. The climate doesn't care what we think. Because we have burned too much fossil fuel, Earth will warm, the glaciers will melt, the arctic ocean will be ice free, there will no longer be fresh drinking water from the melt, the land will dry, fires will rage, forests will disappear, the waters will become acid, many species will go extinct, food will get too expensive for most.  As a result, the economy will be destroyed. Population will have to shrink to a level the earth can support. This will be accompanied by mass migrations, social unrest, and most likely wars.

Using these definitions: Economics is a religion when there is no attempt to base it on facts. If, however, there are people who carefully study the evidence, and propose policy solutions based on the best available knowledge, I would argue that they aspire to be scientists and should be respected as such. Economics has both kinds of people. Voodoo or supply-side economics has long been discredited, but carries on as religion. Nobel prize winning economists, like Joe Stiglitz or Paul Krugman, deserve respect as scholars and scientists. To say this is also to take sides in the politics. It is usually best to side with people with deep knowledge of their subject, not the ones who can't accept science.


Wake up! said...

Food for thought

Dale Asberry said...