Home > The Economics Profession > Lawson yes, Lawsonism no

Lawson yes, Lawsonism no

from Edward Fullbrook

I have mixed feelings and misgivings about Nuno Martin’s short essay, “The nature of modern economics, including an account of heterodox unity and coherence”.  

Like Keynes, Lawson is a mathematician – a real mathematician – who turning to economics was shocked by the incompetence with which economists habitually apply mathematics to their subject matter. He has made it his life’s work to turn economics away from scientism. 

My continuing enthusiasm and support for Tony Lawson’s project began in 1997 when his influence did not yet extend far beyond the banks of the Cam.  In 1998 the Atlantic Economic Journal published my review article “Shifting the Mainstream: Lawson’s Impetus”, which notes Lawson’s “deeply informed attempt to liberate economics from its metaphysical presuppositions, usually tacit, inherited from Newtonian physics and Enlightenment epistemology“, and it concludes that “all economists should read his Economics and Reality.”  

More recently I commissioned for the Real-World Economics Review ten critical essays on Lawson’s work.  These papers together with Lawson’s replies were then gathered to form the book Ontology and Economics: Tony Lawson and his Critics published last year by Routledge.  The opening to my introduction to that book testifies to the importance I attach to Lawson’s work and also to the success, through his relentless energy and clarity of thought, he has had in getting his ideas known to, even if not yet accepted by, large elements of the economics profession.

Tony Lawson has become a major figure of intellectual controversy on the back of juxtaposing two relatively simple and seemingly innocuous ideas. In two books and over fifty papers he has argued:

1. that success in science depends on finding and using methods, including modes of reasoning, appropriate to the nature of the phenomena being studied, and

2. that there are important differences between the nature of the objects of study of natural sciences and those of social science.

Taken together, these two ideas lead to the conclusion that the methods found to be successful in natural sciences are generally not the ones that should be used in social science.

By relentlessly focusing on this pair of ideas, Lawson has in a short space of time changed one of economics’ key conversations. His chapter, “A Realist Theory for Economics”, published in Roger Backhouse’s 1994 landmark collection New Directions in Economics Methodology, stands out like someone standing alone at a party. As recently as then the ideas of three thinkers, none of them economists, none social scientists and all of them dead, dominated economics’ literature on methodology. The index of Backhouse’s wonderful book powerfully illustrates this. It lists 47 pages that refer to Thomas Kuhn, 69 to Karl Popper and 73 to Imre Lakatos. Twelve of the book’s sixteen chapters (excluding Lawson’s) refer to one or more of the three and eight, as well as the back cover, to all three. Lawson does not refer to any of them. More significant, Lawson’s key reference point is ontology, a word that, except in the Introduction when Backhouse is introducing his collection’s odd man out, appears in none of the other chapters. Notably, when Lawson first uses “ontology” he feels it necessary, despite his highly specialized audience, to explain what the word means: “enquiry into the nature of being, of what exists, including the nature of the objects of study.” [Lawson 1994, p. 257]

Thirteen years later and anyone in economics who knows anything about methodology knows what “ontology” means. They also have come to realize that if Lawson’s basic conclusion were applied it would entail a programme of reform that would fundamentally change economics. A quick check with Google shows just how phenomenally successful Lawson has been at changing the conversation. Below are listed the number of web pages turned up for four trios of words. [30/03/07]

  • Popper, economics, methodology 300,000
  • Kuhn, economics, methodology 391,000
  • Lakatos, economics, methodology 82,300
  • Lawson, economics, methodology 264,000
  • ontology, economics, methodology 1,050,000

From the start, however, I have had one disagreement with and one serious doubt about the long-term effectiveness of Lawson’s program.  The former is with Lawson’s tendency to dismiss all uses of all maths in economics as ill-conceived, a view which tends to become more categorical and condescending and sometimes perhaps ill-informed with some of his followers.  An illustration is Martin’s penultimate sentence which speaks of “novel mathematical approaches that commit all the usual errors in a slightly different guise (complexity analysis is an obvious example).”

Martin’s essay also illustrates and reinforces my doubt about the real-world efficacy of Lawson’s project.  My first essay on Lawson’s work cautioned that “his efforts risk evaporation through inward-turning discussions by a band of like-minded meta-theoreticians” and noted that this “is the classic road to nowhere travelled by most would-be reformers of all kinds throughout history.”  Likewise today the inward-turning discussions among groups of like-minded are the plague of heterodox economics, a sociological arrangement consisting of a smorgasbord of isms upon whose disunity the neoclassical hegemony ultimately depends.  The purpose of the “How to build a narrative linking the various heterodoxies” series of posts and comments is to turn those discussions outward so as to join them together to create a new “mainstream”.  Lawson’s project, because of its meta nature and because it strikes at the heart of the neoclassical beast, has much to offer the building of a new narrative and, moreover, one joined to science rather than scientism.  But I detect, hopefully wrongly, in Martins’ essay the view that those wishing to reform economics should join “the Cambridge group” rather than it join the larger community of real-world economists.  Lawson’s social ontology offers a beginning for building an alternative paradigm, not the paradigm itself as Martin seems to imply.  It could be extremely constructive if the “the Cambridge group” came on board and pitched in with the larger project.

  1. August 23, 2010 at 11:39 am

    I should have thought that the penultimate paragraph clarifies Martin’s intent to remind the readers about ONE reasonably coherent attempt that could be used as a ‘comparator for novel contributions’.

    IA

  2. August 23, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    its funny, i’d never heard of lawson even though until recently i considered myself pretty well read in both standard and heterodox economics.
    i looked at one paper of his on the web on ‘ontology’ and green economics. since i might describe myself as a ‘green’ type, this looked like a waste of paper, with about 2 trivial points, so its wasteful, innefficient and not ‘green’. i note he was at UCB also, so he probably flies a bit (another waste). Herman Daly more or less laid ‘green economics’ out awjhile back (and his stuff was not really new or profound, just well done—-and it owed too much to some imprecise reasoning by georges-roegescu, which should have been corrected).

    (I will say i tend to follow Debreu in my skepticism about motives—debreu said in an interview that his interest in math econ was due to smith’s ‘invisible hand’ so similarily my green ideology may just be due to my social position rather than some choice).

    herb ginitis has a charitable review of lawson on amazon. herb gintis has done alot of interesting stuff, and i share more of his opinions, though he does seem to have gotten swallowed into what lawson describes—heterodox types falling into the same pattern of excess formalization, while forgetting they may just be trapped in a different axiomatic system than Debreu’s.

    anyway, this stuff looks to be poetry, or art, or philosophy or math.

    I note lawson spoke at a UK ‘new economics foundation’ event. he is big on feminist economics it seems. i note the picture of the people there show 28 white males and 4 others, from my glance. I realize that 28 is the kind of quantitative ontological object lawson decries, but like gintis i think one can count and follow the money. That place was started by soros with 50$million. what crisis?
    duncan foley flew there to repeat himself. (hence more jobs for greens seeking to save nature, and marxists in both academia and out).

    heterodox?

  3. August 23, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    I think that one of the underlying drivers of the phenomenon of “schools of thought” is tribalism in disguise. The need to belong to a group, and the cozy feelings derived from such an experience, tends to shackle the inquiring mind into conformity.
    It also appears to me that a number of schools of thought come about when one individual manages to create a following by presenting some ideas that people like to buy into. In some cases this grows into a cult with a “priesthood” of advocates assembled around the personality of the originator. These priests feel empowered by their superior” knowledge and become the spokespersons and judges of the newly formed tribe.
    This happens in economics, just as much as it happens in other fields of endeavor, like sports, or whatever.
    Our stone age past is forever haunting us.

  4. Dan
    August 23, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    I agree, and I think you make an important point. Most successful discourses achieve hegemony partly by ignoring their critics. Given the importance of Lawson’s body of work, it would be a shame if most economists continued to remain unaware of it. Practical research, rather than the continual refinement of methodology, would be a good way of reaching out to other economists, and of changing economics.

    http://emergenteconomics.com/2010/08/23/shouting-over-each-others-shoulders/

  5. Merijn Knibbe
    August 23, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    I agree with Dan.

    The by now famous ‘Shiller graph’ of prices of houses and building costs in the USA during the last 116 years has by now reached at least one macro economic textbook.

    Another example: macro economics seem to be largely about National Accounts. In the last edition of: Abel. A.B., B.S. Bernanke and D Croushore, ‘Macroeconomics’,
    Boston, 2011 (?!, the text does say 2011) the next graphs and tables are based upon data from the National Accounts, the system that inspired Keynes so much. I use National Accounts here in a broad sense i.c. including labor market accounts and price indices:

    Graph 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1,4, 1.5, 1.6
    Chapter 2, all of it
    Graph 3.9, 3.14; Table 3.1, 3.4
    Graph 4.1, 4.6, 4.10; table 4.1, 4.2, 4.5
    Graph 5.6, 5.7, 5.8, 5.9, 5.11; Table 5.1
    Graph 6.1, 6.2, 6.10; table 6.1, 6.4
    Graph 7.2
    Graph 8.2, 8.3, 8.6, 8.7, 8.8, 8.9, 8.9, 8.10, 8.11, 8.12, 8.15; Table 8.1, 8.2
    Graph 10.1, 10.2
    Graph 12.1, 12.2, 12.7. 12.9
    Graph 13.2
    Graph 14,11, 14.13
    Graph 15.1, 15.2, 15.4, 15.5, 15.6

    In my view, much of the Chicago School (Becker/Friedman/Lucas etc.) effort has been directed not only to compromising Keynesian economics, but increasingly also to compromising National Account Statistics – trading in measurements of wages, expenses, profits and the like for assumptions of unmeasurable (and in my opinion non existing) ‘utility’.

    What is macro-economics about?

    References:

    Tily, G., ‘John Maynard Keynes and the Development of National Accounts in Britain, 1895-1941’, Review of Income and Wealth, Vol. 55, No. 2, pp. 331-359, June 2009.

    Bos, F., ‘The National Accounts as a too for analysis and policy. Past, present and future’, Berkel en Rodenrijs, 2003.

  6. JFV
    August 24, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    The more I learn about economics, the more it sounds like religion to me. While you guys are talking ontology and models, there are little and big guys everywhere who are making decisions, probably unaware that those decisions are based on a bunch of dead economists, but probably not too concerned about it either. The real world is not waiting for economists to decide what they want to do. Economists will always play catch-up.

  7. Merijn Knibbe
    August 25, 2010 at 7:39 am

    “Science proceeds by rolling back the answers of religion”
    Mark Blaug

    Dear JFV,

    – you are right, and not.

    * you are not the first one to call ‘a certain kind of economics’ a religion, recently Shiller did the same thing.(Shiller, R. J. (2006), Tools for financial innovation: neoclassical versus behavioral finance’, cowled Foundation paper 1180, New Haven). And he has not been the only one.

    * and there has always been an a-empirical strand in e.g. the analysis of General Equilibrium and utility – which even seems to change into an anti-empirical strand (see the answer of Lucas Vogel to my comments on the paper of Mouroukane and Vogel, on this blog).

    * Indeed, the sector ‘households’ in DSGE models even seems to have characteristics of the Judean/Christian/Moslim God: all seeing, all knowing, eternal: max(U) from here to eternity. Be aware: with this ‘all seeing’ etc. I do not intent to mock these models, it is LITERALLY what they assume. As Shiller shows this idea is an almost unchanged version of the Samuelsonian formulation (it’s not any kind of scientific definition!) of utility in 1937 – DSGE is soooo 1937….

    * there also are, however, modern, scientific economists. On this blog I have repeatedly drawn attention to the modern science of consumer behavior and to ‘our own little Hubble Telescope’, the modern, scientific system of National Accounts (including all the people actually measuring these data). Of course, sometimes we do have to refocus our lens – but that does not seem to be out of line with other sciences.

    * the problem: academic economists often do not know about these approaches. I will cite my former colleague Frits Bos, who did write his Ph. D. on National Accounts, at some length:

    “Decades ago, national accounts were a major innovatioin for economic policy and analysis. National accounting was developed by some of the best economists in the world (e.g. Kuznets, Hicks, Keynes, Tinbergen, Stone, Leontief, Frisch). Education in national accounting became a substantial part of economic curricula … At present the availability of national accounts statistics is taken for granted… economic researchers (e.g. those studying economic growth) often lack elementary knowledge of national accounting and national accounting has become a profession entirely seperate from other parts of economic science. In contrast, the availability of national accounts statistics has increased substantially … The current situation urgently demands a substantial investment in education (Bos, F. (2003), ‘The national accounts as a tool for analysis and policy; past present and future’, Berkel and Rodenrijs.

    See, again, the answer of Vogel to my post, which clearly proves Bos his point. Though Bos does not identify himself as a heterodox econmists, his laments are earily equal to the laments which one can encounter so frequently on this blog and in the Real World Economics Review. We do measure the data – but many economists (including heterodox) are ignorant of them.

    The real important thing when we compare national accounting to ‘utility analysis’: the concepts of National Accounts and the ways they are measured are continuously improved and adapted to the changing situation of the world and changing demands. THE CONCEPT OF ‘UTILITY’ IS NOT AND THE WAY IT IS MEASURED – WELL, WE DO NOT MEASURE ‘UTILITY’. NEVER HAVE. NEVER WILL. CAN’T BE DONE. IF EXPERIMENTS SHOW THAT, OFTEN, PREFERENCES FOLLOW CHOICE INSTEAD OF VICE VERSA – IGNORE THEM. IF ALL ATTEMPTS TO MEASURE ‘UTILITY’ FAIL – JUST ASSUME IT’S THERE. IF CRITICS SAY THAT PEOPLE DO NOT HAVE PERFECT FORESIGHT – JUST ASSUME THEY HAVE. Does that sound as ‘scientific fundamentalism’?

    Now, this would not be a problem if this was just a discussion between bored academics. But it isn’t. At this very moment, Dutch pension funds are running into trouble and have to decrease even nominal pensions because some smurf at the Central Bank recently ordained that they have to use the (very low) ‘sixty years ahead Bloomberg interbanking swap interest rate’ (my translation) to calculate the future value of their reserves, as this market rate presumably contains perfect foresight – even though analysis clearly proves that, in the past, this interest has not had any kind of predictive power (zero, naught, nothing). JUST ASSUME IT HAS! But that’s not religion – that’s just badly educated economists. These are, indeed, dangerous.

    On this (in Dutch, however) see: Wiemer Salverda, “Alleen gezonde pensioenen als De Nederlandsche Bank weer in schoolbankjes plaatsneemt”, Me Judice, 23 augustus 2010, http://www.mejudice.nl/artikel/467/alleen-gezonde-pensioenen-als-de-nederlandsche-bank-weer-in-schoolbankjes-plaatsneemt

  8. August 25, 2010 at 10:32 am

    In the 21st Century there is no reason why we cannot get a far more accurate understanding of the real economy via electronic means using product codes, barcodes, et cetera. This is explained in my evolving project of Transfinancial Economics….

  9. Nuno Martins
    August 25, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    In the Real-World Economics Review Blog of August 22 , I responded to Edward Fullbrook’s earlier open invitation to comment on “how to build a narrative linking the various heterodoxies” so as to have an alternative paradigm with which to challenge the mainstream of modern economics. I suggested in effect that we don’t need to start from scratch but can make use of existing seemingly sustainable conceptions, and suggested the conception elaborated by Tony Lawson and his Cambridge colleagues.

    In his reply to my piece Edward Fullbrook is both polite and respectful of all involved. I hope I can reciprocate; but I do believe that there are aspects of the way the Cambridge group (and myself) have been interpreted, that do not really stand up.

    First Fullbrook refers to what he calls:

    “Lawson’s tendency to dismiss all uses of all maths in economics as ill-conceived, a view which tends to become more categorical and condescending and sometimes perhaps ill-informed with some of his followers.”

    This really is not my position. Nor is it Lawson’s, as is immediately clear from a serious reading of any of his contributions, not least various chapters in Fullbrook’s own 2009 book, in which Lawson devotes numerous pages to elaborating his position on such matters (see especially pages 189 – 198 of chapter 12: http://www.econ.cam.ac.uk/faculty/lawson/PDFS/ReplytoHodgson.pdf )

    Lawson certainly criticises the misapplication of formalistic methods, and in particular their usage in conditions for which they are inappropriate. This is how he sees the mathematical-deductive methods of modern economics being mostly employed, believing they are persevered with by modern economists because they are thought (wrongly) to impart an image of scientificity. But there is a blanket rejection of nothing except the mainstream insistence that only such mathematical methods be employed. In Fullbrook’s 2009 book, Lawson elaborates his position on such matters at length. But it is also repeatedly expressed elsewhere. Thus in the introduction to his 2003 Reorienting Economics, Lawson writes:

    “Let me elaborate a little on my orientation to formal modelling. Although parts of this book, and most specifically chapter 1, are critical of the way formal modelling methods are taken up in modern economics, I hope by now the highly conditional nature of my criticism is apparent. It is not, and has never been, my intention to oppose the use of formalistic methods in themselves. My primary opposition, rather, is to the manner in which they are everywhere imposed, to the insistence on their being almost universally wielded, irrespective of, and prior to, considerations of explanatory relevance, and in the face of repeated failures” (Lawson, 2003, p.xix).

    In concluding his critical chapter 1 of the same book, Lawson writes:

    “In so concluding I am not at all suggesting that formalistic modelling methods should not exist among the battery of options available. All knowledge is fallible, including ontological theorising. And even accepting the ontological perspective systematised and defended in the chapters which follow, there may yet be some (greater) scope of application for methods of mathematical modelling than so far uncovered. But just as significantly, although ontology can provide some directionality to social theorising, one of its most useful functions, and perhaps its primary one, is actually to open up analysis. This is precisely its role here. My aim with the discussion of this chapter is not to narrow down the range of methodological options by attempting to prohibit a particular method. Rather it is to widen the range of possibilities through criticising the fact that, and manner in which, the particular method in question is currently and unthinkingly universalised” (Lawson 2003, chapter 1. See: http://www.econ.cam.ac.uk/faculty/lawson/PDFS/02CHAP1.pdf)

    And in a paper in the Journal of Economic Methodology Lawson is just as explicit:

    “In short, I do not denigrate the use of mathematics. I do, though, believe that the sorts of mathematical-deductivist methods mainstream economists mostly use presuppose an implicit worldview that is not especially typical of social reality. I also suggest that many of the widely acknowledged failures of the discipline arise just because these methods are being applied in conditions for which they are not especially appropriate. In consequence, in Reorienting Economics I argue for a more pluralistic orientation to social theorising, and spend time demonstrating that alternatives methods of relevance do exist. In this I do not suggest that formalistic methods be excluded for the methodological options on offer. But I do insist that methods of mathematical-deductivist reasoning (like any other tools) have limits to their usefulness, and that this be recognised and respected. However, I see this as a pro-, rather than an anti-, mathematics position” (Lawson, 2004, pp. 337-339).

    Edward Fullbrook also indicates a second, understandable, worry in his response to my note, namely that the formation of groups carries the danger of inward-turning discussions and isolationism:

    “today the inward-turning discussions among groups of like-minded are the plague of heterodox economics, a sociological arrangement consisting of a smorgasbord of isms upon whose disunity the neoclassical hegemony ultimately depends. The purpose of the “How to build a narrative linking the various heterodoxies” series of posts and comments is to turn those discussions outward so as to join them together to create a new “mainstream”.

    Although Fullbrook does not say as much, the implication seems to be that in providing a coherent interpretation of the various heterodox groupings Lawson is somehow advocating an isolationist or inward-turning orientation. But once more this is really quite far from Lawson’s position. Rather, Lawson views the various heterodox groupings as divisions of labour in one overall project, and repeatedly advocates their continuous interaction and co-development. The following passage (from Fullbrook’s own book) is typical of Lawson’s stance and assessment:

    “The basic thesis I advance concerning the (traditional) heterodox projects is that they are best conceived as divisions of labour in one overall project […]I hope it is clear, then, that there is a place for more or less all types of research practice on the conception I defend; I am not at all advancing a vision of (or seeking to encourage) isolated practices. To the contrary, according to the conception I am advancing it is actually vital that the various divisions perpetually keep in touch with each other’s contributions and developments. For all are working on aspects of the same whole, and each tradition requires some understanding of the whole (and so of each other’s contributions) in order to carry out its own division of labour competently” (Lawson, 2009 pp 123-5, in Fullbrook, ed. 2009 – for the full paper see: http://www.econ.cam.ac.uk/faculty/lawson/PDFS/Replytodavis.pdf)

    Fullbrook also writes:

    “I detect, hopefully wrongly, in Martins’ essay the view that those wishing to reform economics should join “the Cambridge group” rather than it join the larger community of real-world economists. Lawson’s social ontology offers a beginning for building an alternative paradigm, not the paradigm itself as Martins seems to imply”

    I agree with Fullbrook that the conception of social ontology in question is not in itself an alternative paradigm. Indeed it is not a substantive paradigm at all. It is an attempt to systematise and make explicit the already-in-place presuppositions of modern heterodox traditions in order to under-labour for further substantive development. But in this Lawson’s social ontology is not even a beginning, as Fullbrook suggests, but rather a continuation. Thus in my earlier essay I explicitly stressed that “Lawson and his colleagues are simultaneously both assessing heterodoxy and significantly influenced by heterodoxy in turn, most especially by the writings of economists like Keynes, Hayek, Marx, Dobb, Veblen, Marshall, Smith, Shackle, Menger, Boulding, and Kaldor (see eg Lawson (1997, 2003), Fleetwood (1999) or Fullbrook (2009).”

    Lawson’s goal, as I see, includes systematising the ontological presuppositions of heterodox traditions in economics, with the intention in large part, of facilitating dialogue and exchange between the various heterodox paradigms. This of course, is the continuing goal, and indeed already a huge achievement of Edward Fullbrook, in facilitating numerous outlets for open exchange and engagement on matters bearing on the economy and its analysis. As such, it seems to me that Lawson and his Cambridge group have always been part of “the larger community of real-world economists” and that they and Fullbook are pursuing the same cause – albeit doing so in different, though surely not contradictory, but mutually supportive, ways.

    • August 25, 2010 at 4:17 pm

      I did not write “position”; I wrote “tendency”. But even the latter may be a bit strong or off-target. What I had in mind were the misgivings that over the years various heterodox economists have voiced to me regarding what they perceive as Lawson’s blanket or near blanket rejection of mathematics in economics. Rightly or wrongly, and I would prefer wrongly, this is not an uncommon perception. So I am grateful, sincerely so, to have and that others may read the chapter and verse that Martins provides in his comment.

      I have never suggested nor intended to suggest that anyone in economics is “ADVOCATING an isolationist or inward-turning orientation” (emphasis added). Advocacy is not the only means by which habits and patterns emerge in the human world. Unless expressly constituted in part as a transformational project, it is my experience that outsider groups, sometimes for good and sometimes not, tend to turn inward as a means of survival and esteem. Economists – and what could be more obvious – are no exception, perhaps especially so when based at a hyper-elite institution. But this is not a destiny, but rather something, like racial segregation, that can be overcome; hence these discussions.

      Martins however appears not to get their point. They are not about providing a means whereby “the various divisions” may “keep in touch” nor about “facilitating dialogue and exchange between the various heterodox paradigms.” To the contrary, they are about coming together to form A paradigm that can challenge the neoclassical paradigm for the role of mainstream paradigm. Does anyone seriously believe that the current heterodox hotchpotch provides a sufficient basis for breaking the hegemony of neoclassical economics?

      • Peter Radford
        August 26, 2010 at 6:46 pm

        There seem to be three themes emerging here that I think we need to keep in front of us:

        First: Lawson and his group are performing a valuable task in forcing economists to consider what Maki calls the “what? why? and how?” of the discipline. It is essential that economics is well bedded in a view of what it is supposed to be. Such a view is sorely missing from the mainstream, presumably because of the incremental development of the subject since neoclassicism asserted its dominance. Those folks don’t have to think about what economics is because they simply assume that whatever they are doing suffices as its own justification.

        Second: Having such a view is not the same as establishing an alternative paradigm to neoclassical economics. For that we are still groping forward. But having one gives heterodoxy a decided epistemic advantage were it accepted.

        Third: That the emergence of a new paradigm requires some introspection on the part of the heterodox community. We need to recognize that the failure to overcome orthodoxy resides in the fragmented and incomplete nature of that “hotchpotch”, no single part of which is up to the challenge. I concur that decades spent in the wilderness has produced a bunker mentality that needs to be broken down before the various aspects of heterodoxy can be woven together sufficiently to mount a serious challenge to neoclassicism.

        The entire enterprise of heterodoxy needs to be opened up and oriented towards the future, rather than to remain mired in endless, and frankly fruitless, critiques of orthodoxy. That’s the value of RWER and discussions such as this. Lawson’s contribution is part of that beginning, but he is not the answer.

        I can see a Lawson style “what? why? and how?” as part of any future curriculum. That begs the question: what else is?

  10. September 2, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    I trained as a chemist, then as a forester (biology) and finally worked mostly as a statistical ecology modeller. Science to me is a integrated system of understanding the world in which there is a hierarchical thread. Physics, chemistry, cell biology, ecology connected by processes we can study and understand.
    Economics has always interested me. There must be some truth here, but classical and neoclassical economics seem to violate the rules of all the sciences. It is rife with myth and assumptions that are given more credence than any evidence. I’m still looking … Lawson still does not seem attuned to the inclusive nature of levels of the hard sciences and mathematics certainly do play a role in our understanding of all sciences.

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