It’s a Fact that the Facts of the Social Sciences are Known Only Through Theories

by Don Boudreaux on December 31, 2011

in Myths and Fallacies, Science, Scientism

Comes this e-mail in response to today’s Quotation of the Day; I withhold my correspondent’s name:

DB: So you telling us that facts are subjective. How convenient for you Austrians to dismiss facts which do not tell the story you want to tell to push your destructive ideology and slapstick economics. Stick to preaching brother and leave real science to Paul Krugman and other people capable of thinking at levels beyond that [sic] of two year olds.

Happy New Year.

I’ve no inclination now to rehash old methodological arguments.  So I offer this observation from Steve Landsburg; it’s from page 124 of The Big Questions:

Everything we know “based on evidence” is actually based on evidence together with appropriate theory.

Yep.  And much of what we “know,” even when based on solid evidence, is wrong when that evidence is combined with inappropriate theory – such as the theory (for that is all that it is) that everyone called “Americans” are so unified in history, thought, interests, preferences, information, understanding, and expectations that we can usefully be thought of – that we can usefully be discussed and analyzed – as if we, this aggregate of 300+ million individuals all eligible for passports issued by Uncle Sam, are pretty much, close-enough to being a single individual (or, at least, a family whose surname is “American”).

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