Sometimes Methodology Isn’t Everything

Brad Delong points us to a study published in the British Medical Association jounal BMJ and quotes from it:

Smith and Pell: Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma related to gravitational challenge: systematic review of randomised controlled trials 327 (7429): 1459 —

No randomised controlled trials of parachute use have been undertaken

The basis for parachute use is purely observational, and its apparent efficacy could potentially be explained by a “healthy cohort” effect”

The full journal article is well worth following at the link he quotes.  Besides the laugh (warning: the positive health effects of laughing haven’t been proved by randomized controlled trials either), the authors suggest by parody an excellent point.  Sometimes rigid adherence to one single methodology in science is sometimes not only uncalled for and useless, it can also be immoral.  Some Austrian and New Classical economists might want to take note.

In Economics, the Zombies Walk Everyday, Not Just At Halloween

In economics the zombies are with with us year-around, not just at Halloween.

Zombie Economics

Zombie Ecnomics

Thanks to ACEMAXX-ANALYTICS for the graphic.   And thanks also to John Quiggin (who also writes at CrookedTimber) for authoring the book Zombie Economics, a must read for understanding how current “mainstream” economics got so far off track from reality.


The Difference Between Physics and Mainstream Economics

Newspapers this morning were full of the story of how physicists at CERN in Geneva have demonstrated that a particle (sub-atomic one) could go faster than the speed of light.  I’m no physicist, (although I do make extensive use of the principles of gravity and inertia), but this appears to be a rather startling result – one of those things current accepted theory says can’t happen.  The Globe and Mail report:

 A fundamental pillar of physics – that nothing can go faster than the speed of light – appears to be smashed by an oddball subatomic particle that has apparently made a giant end run around Albert Einstein’s theories.

Scientists at the world’s largest physics lab said Thursday they have clocked neutrinos travelling faster than light. That’s something that according to Einstein’s 1905 special theory of relativity – the famous E (equals) mc2 equation – just doesn’t happen.

Mr. Gillies told The Associated Press that the readings have so astounded researchers that they are asking others to independently verify the measurements before claiming an actual discovery.

“They are inviting the broader physics community to look at what they’ve done and really scrutinize it in great detail, and ideally for someone elsewhere in the world to repeat the measurements,” he said Thursday.

Scientists at the competing Fermilab in Chicago have promised to start such work immediately.

“It’s a shock,” said Fermilab head theoretician Stephen Parke, who was not part of the research in Geneva. “It’s going to cause us problems, no doubt about that – if it’s true.”

Wow. What a difference. So when reality demonstrates something that theory says can’t happen, the physicists think it’s a problem and set out to: (a) verify the results, and (b) revise theory to account for it.  In mainstream macroeconomics as it’s been practiced since the 1970’s, they do just the opposite.  If something happens in reality that theory says or assumes can’t happen, mainstream macro-economists will just ignore facts. After all, an elegant mathematical theory is just too beautiful to abandon.  Why describe the workings of the real world when you can build models of hypothetical mathematical worlds that can never exist.   </end snarky sarcasm>