|Science is a process of
formulating models that predict outcomes in a natural system
under certain conditions, and then testing them to see if the future
predictions agree. However, the goal is to find how the model is
inadequately representing the natural system. When the model is refuted,
it is adjusted to form a new model from what is learned about the
system. Since there is an underlying system that is being approximated
by the models, there is an "objective reality"
(exists independently of human conceptualization) to be described by
conceptual models. The models evolve representations
of the relationships and features that are defined by the system. Models
are useful to humans. Models are respected when
they better reflect the nature of the system.
Since Descartes we have approached the
task of developing models as if the systems were mechanical. This means
that the properties of one part are inherent in its composition and
individual properties, unaffected by the surroundings. We can study the
whole system a part at a time, assemble what we have learned into a more
comprehensive model. The more extensive the parts and the quality of the
model's components, the better model should become.
As complex systems have been recognized
and are being studied, we are beginning to appreciate that both living
and physical systems are not well approximated by Cartesian approaches.
A model composed of parts that are independently describable is
inadequate because the system has extensive interactions among the
components. Therefore, the features of a part of the system are
partly determined by the components, and partly determined by the
conditions surrounding the components. That is, the components have
properties that partly depend on the context in which they exist. To
understand responses we need to consider the entire system at once.
Nevertheless, the reality of science is a
physical universe with underlying determinable properties. Only our
approach to study reflects the difference between Cartesian science and
complex systems. In complex systems, the system evolves and there is an
"arrow of time" that prevents "retro-dictions"
(predicting the conditions in the past that led to present states) and
long range pre-dictions are impossible.
On the other hand
economics is an artifact of human imagination, and the agreement among
certain humans who "play the games" together
-- thereby it is a social technology. There is no underlying
physical reality other than what is identified by the players to be
components. Granted, the interactions within the system may be complex,
and the economic properties are determined by what people study.
Nevertheless, in the economic properties are determined by
and limited only by the beliefs of the "players." To build
economic models one must assume certain features, and the models become
part of the generators of the results. Since they are not inherently
tied to the physical and biological realities, they may fail arbitrarily
as the physical and biological world view of humans change -- or as
people believe the physical and biological world exists. Economics in
large part reflects human belief systems. When physical and biological
constraints become seriously constrained for humans, economics becomes
irrelevant. The game ends.