Debate:Is economics a science

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I question the labeling of economics as "science" given that it's hard to discuss/analyze/measure something as broad and nebulous as "the economy" without making at least a few normative ideological statements about what measurements matter and whatnot. I don't think this necessarily makes economics pseudoacademic, but I find it funny when economists of certain schools accusing economists of other schools of being "cranks" when mainstream economics itself certainly isn't without criticism. The criticisms surrounding the notion of Homo economicus are legion, and the neoliberal notion of indefinite economic growth arguably runs afoul of entropy.

I think a good comparison can be made to gender studies or other areas of the humanities. Gender studies certainly isn't pseudoacademic, like economics, but it's hard to discuss something as broad and nebulous as gender without making at least a few normative ideological statements. @OnlySortaDumb made a good point about Marxian economics on the economics talk page, and I'm going to quote them here:

From what I read of Marxian Economics such as the collection of essays by Joan Robinson -- Marxian Economics isn't strictly speaking a promotion or reiteration of Marx's economic theories. It's a field that explores the strengths and limitations of Marx's theories; sometimes in aim of refutation; sometimes in aim of improvement; and sometimes in aim of vindication. The people who practice Marxian Economics are not strictly speaking Marxists; and we shouldn't conflate the study with the ideology and system of communism as a whole. That is incredibly misleading. For example Okishio's Theorem comes from the field of Marxian Economics, but it's specifically intended as a refutation of Marx's idea about the tendency for the rate of profit to fall necessitating a depression of real wages; and the necessitation of the rate of profit to fall more broadly. - Only Sort of Dumb (talk) 19:44, 29 October 2022 (UTC).

Perhaps in that vein, mainstream economics is the study of capitalism as an economic system, but shouldn't be equated with the ideology of capitalism itself.

That's just my two cents though. However we should all keep in mind Sinclair's Maxim and Hanlon's Razor before engaging in what is certainly going to become a shitshow just because of how RW works. Vee (talk) 04:06, 9 November 2022 (UTC)

Criticisms from the Philosophy of Social Science.[edit]

Lee McIntyre has made the argument that social sciences like sociology and economics struggle to employ what he calls the scientific attitude to the full extent that is applicable. The scientific attitude being the attitude of desiring to test one's beliefs constantly against the evidence and revising one's beliefs when the evidence contradicts one's initial hypothesis. This is evidenced by a field's tendency to take in account the findings of other scientific disciplines and their willingness to engage in controlled experimentation to test hypotheses. It is often argued that social scientists highlight the degree to which there are too many sociocultural factors to control for, and no means to totally eliminate unwarranted bias or cofounding factors -- but McIntyre rightly points out that this is also true of medicine and that has not stopped medicine from engaging with controlled experimentation. Psychology too also frequently engages in controlled experimentation such as in both cognitive science and social psychology.

With economics up until relatively recently the majority of the models have not been based upon, or tested against controlled experimental conditions (especially within macroeconomics). This has changed with the advent of behavioral economics which was developed in response to the inconsistencies that existed between mainstream economic theories and cognitive science. [1]

To describe Economics as a pseudoscience runs against the demarcation problem, so without a deciding criteria and more information about how the field currently operates I would not be comfortable describing economics as a pseudoscience. That being said I do think there is such a thing as economism which functions as a prescriptive worldview. Social sciences should aim to simply to describe social systems, how they occur, what causes certain social/cultural phenomena to happen, and try to the best of their ability to make reliable predictions based on models informed by the best available evidence. It is not the business of any science to determine what is and what is not ethical. Once people start applying economics as a set of prescriptive rules to designing ethical policies, or even go as far to say they can determine what is objectively unethical/ethical outcomes using economics -- it ceases to be merely a scientific endeavor, but an ideological/philosophical one. - Only Sort of Dumb (talk) 04:32, 9 November 2022 (UTC)

Notice that I didn't call economics pseudoscience, merely other than science. Like the humanities. Obviously economics has evidential aspects to it. That doesn't change the fact that it's hard to analyze something as broad and nebulous as gender and/or the economy without making at least a few normative ideological statements. I don't think that this lessens the validity of either field in anyway. Vee (talk) 09:30, 9 November 2022 (UTC)
Sorry, I didn’t mean to allege that you did. The problem here though is that fields like gender studies, law, philosophy, or even history don’t claim to be sciences. That gets into part of the demarcation problem that asks what is the difference between non-science and pseudoscience? Economics is classed as a social science like psychology. If it could not be classed as science then purporting itself as science would make it pseudoscience. Deciding whether or not it’s science is going to depend on what demarcation criteria is most appropriate. - Only Sort of Dumb (talk) 09:44, 9 November 2022 (UTC)
A couple of the things that I have against economics as a science are these. 1. Prediction. Classically a science makes predictions and carries out experiments to see if these predictions are true. (or makes statements and sees if they can be falsified). Economics is certainly not shy of making predictions. A vast number of them were made by economists on both sides of the Brexit debate for example. But these predictions often bear little resemblance to what actually happens. Of course we then get a whole set of explanations about why things turned out as they did. But explaining the past is far easier then predicting the future. And there are different explanations from different schools of economics.
Which brings me to my second point. 2. Schools of economics. There are different schools of economics which are based on different assumptions. (Sometimes with a political bias.) They make different predictions and turn out different explanations. Compare this with, say, geology. While there will be differing opinions they all share the base assumption of plate tectonics which drives everything. Their predictions and explanations are based on the same theory.
This failure to make consistent predictions and a lack of universally accepted non-political criteria make it difficult to accept as a "science".Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 11:19, 9 November 2022 (UTC)
Piggybacking on what OSD wrote about economism, the fact that economists and economics students donate less to charity than other majors and professions is telling, to me at least, of self-adhering to the standards of a general ideological narrative. Vee (talk) 16:49, 10 November 2022 (UTC)


  1. McIntyre, L. (2020). The Scientific Attitude: Defending Science from Denial, Fraud, and Pseudoscience. United Kingdom: MIT Press.