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    "privatization"..., 2009-02-09 12:40:33 | Main | we are being eaten alive by our minds..., 2009-02-11 09:25:14

    bad analogies for the promotion of imaginary concepts:

    [E]conomics is on the brink of a paradigm shift. We are where astronomy was when Copernicus realised that the Earth revolves around the Sun. The academic economics of the past 20 years is comparable to pre-Copernican astronomy, with its mysterious heavenly cogs, epicycles and wheels within wheels or maybe even astrology, with its faith in star signs.

    Copernicus didn't actually have any argument that the Earth revolved around the sun beyond some aesthetic principles that had fallen out fashion, and his mathematical model included epicycles because he put the planets on circular orbits, rather than elliptical paths. It simplified Ptolemic astronomy by adopting the heliocentric hypotheses of earlier natural philosophers, I guess, but he still had crystalline spheres and was himself trained, as any astronomer of his day was, as an astrologist, having spent some time filing prognostications at the Domenico Maria the Ferrarese of Novara. Much of the keen interest in his work that made him famous came from the astrologists whose work his models made that much simpler.

    The analogy might work better with Johannes Kepler, who figured out the bit about elliptical orbits (1605), but he also concerned himself with the more certain fundamentals of astrology, and issued his own array of - it happens many were accurate enough - prognostications by such reckoning. Even then astronomers were paying the bills as sooth-sayers for the era's analogs to CNBC.

    Nobody was actually able to demonstrate scientifically that the Earth in fact moved at all until 1725, when James Bradley discovered and explained the astronomical aberration during an otherwise fruitless search for a case of stellar parallax. It's even conceivable that Bradley didn't practice astrology.

    Taking that all into account it probably makes the comparison of neoclassical economics to pre-Copernican astronomy far more apt.

    You should read the rest of the article, but with, hopefully, greater reservations about "paradigm shifts". They very probably do not exist at all but in myth, so there's no sense in getting one's hopes up.

    Via Steve Keen, whom I only just discovered was spamming the internets thanks to Jim, and this particular nitpick via listening to Lawrence Principe's lecture on Copernicus and Calendrical Reform on the way to work this morning.


:: posted by buermann @ 2009-02-10 18:02:35 CST | link





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