Funk, Matt (2008): On the Problem of Breathing, Eating, & Drinking Poison: An introduction to problem solving, nobility of purpose under adverse circumstances, and the search for truth with Sir Karl Popper on Prince Edward Island.
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This paper introduces Karl Popper's approach to problem solving in the social sciences. These methods fundamentally represent the scientific method of the natural sciences. Popper's problem solving technique is outlined in six steps, including an introductory treatment of his solution to Hume's Problem of Induction. These six steps are then applied in the form of a test and logical deduction of our illustrative theory: Cancer rates on Prince Edward Island have dramatically increased as a result of an extraordinary increase (900% in the past decade) in potato production, and a corollary increase of secondary agricultural inputs, namely an increase of chlorothalonil (trade name: Bravo) applications in less than ten years. We conclude our theory is true and, in order to complete our demonstration of Popper's methods, open this theory to criticism and refutations. APPENDIX A offers a brief review of relevant literature on the philosophy of science, and APPENDIX B offers readers a brief introduction to the fundamentals of relevant island-based methods.
|Item Type:||MPRA Paper|
|Original Title:||On the Problem of Breathing, Eating, & Drinking Poison: An introduction to problem solving, nobility of purpose under adverse circumstances, and the search for truth with Sir Karl Popper on Prince Edward Island|
|Keywords:||scientific method; karl popper; truth; falsity; probability theory; the problem of induction; industrial agriculture; prince edward island; insularity; manufacture of consent; the tragedy of the commons|
|Subjects:||B - History of Economic Thought, Methodology, and Heterodox Approaches > B0 - General
D - Microeconomics > D8 - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty > D80 - General
B - History of Economic Thought, Methodology, and Heterodox Approaches > B4 - Economic Methodology > B41 - Economic Methodology
|Depositing User:||Matt Funk|
|Date Deposited:||06. Apr 2009 08:30|
|Last Modified:||12. Feb 2013 04:44|
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Funk, M. (2007a). On the problem of global warming: A solution for william funk, albert gore and richard branson. IIS working paper. Abstract: This paper forwards the conjecture that, contrary to consensus, “The Problem of Global Warming,” is not the anthropogenic superheating of the Earth—because this is clearly not the problem—it is merely a single symptom of far more significant problems, which stem from the Problem of Induction. In short, The Problem of Induction has generated convenient myths which encourage men to act irrationally. Irrationality spawns and maintains irrational institutions which manufacture consent, drive irrational conspicuous consumption, and, moreover, foster hyperirrational resource consumption—which is not limited to the consumption of superheating fossil fuels. This paper proposes a variety of counter-intuitive, viable solutions, but concludes the problem may be insoluble, as the philosophical and methodological foundations which render dominant irrational agents and institutions unable to recognize the true nature of the problem and/or unwilling to act upon otherwise viable solutions.
Funk, M. (2007b). On the problem of global warming II: a brief history of a new & unpopular theory in an open letter to john gillis & ragnar arnason. IIS working paper. Abstract: This paper traces the history, evolution, and development of this new and unpopular theory. Funk, M. (2007c). On the problem of dependent people: natural resource valuation errors in atlantic canadian Island Jurisdictions. IIS working paper. Abstract: Prince Edward Island's Economics, Statistics and Federal Fiscal Relations Division's 33rd Annual Statistical Review theorized (reported) the total value of 2006 fish landings was CAD 166.6 MM. This paper refutes this conjecture: The total value of fish landings for 2006 was approximately CAD 416.5 MM. Furthermore, this paper submits this error has been consistently generated for all 33 years that the Annual Statistical Review has been published. Moreover, this entrenched, systemic error has promoted far more significant problems: a ripple-effect of bias throughout all relative natural resource valuations and destructive land-use policies. These significant problems include (1) The Problem of Continental Economics and (2) The Problem of Dependent People. Island Bioeconomic Problem Solving comparitive models propose tentative solutions by contrasting fishery management methodology and practice amongst dependent Canadian islanders with the fishery management methodology and practices amongst independent Icelandic islanders. In conclusion, the possibilities that independent people enjoy higher levels of rationality, efficiency, happiness, economic sustainability, general well-being, and are thus, ceteris paribus, less likely to commit errors associated with The Problem of Induction are discussed. Likewise, this paper suggests dependent people are more likely to exhibit irrational behaviour, develop deeper dependencies, and to contribute to a wide-array of systemic errors, such as those which exacerbate The Problem of Global Warming.
Funk, M. (2007d). On the problem of hollywood economics: de vany's error—george lucas knows something. IIS working paper. Abstract: Hayek (1991) lamented the difficulty in distinguishing between economics and excrement, and Hemingway (1958) noted “The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, bullshit detector.” In this spirit and within the context of Frankfurt's (2004) Theory of Bullshit, this paper constructs a bullshit detector for economics. This apparatus is carefully calibrated to detect the Seven Deadly Sins of 'Hollywood Economics': Hubris, Intellectual Dishonesty, Greed, Mathematical Mania, Physics Fetishes, Conditions of Emptiness, and Sunspots. We trace the philosophical and methodological origin of these traits to its source, The Problem of Induction, then illustrate with examples from Plato to the present, including detailed analysis from the illuminating cases of Long Term Capital Management and William Stanley Jevons' sunspot theory. Furthermore, we demonstrate the contemporary effectiveness of this apparatus by detecting hereto undetected economic bullshit, namely Arthur de Vany's (2004) Hollywood Economics: How Extreme Uncertainty Shapes the Film Industry. In the process, we falsify de Vany's 'Nobody knows anything' theory and advance our replacement theory: George Lucas knows something.
Funk, M. (2007e). On the problem of sustainable economic development: introducing island bioeconomics problem solving & an economic theory of value. IIS working paper. Abstract: This paper presents a solution to an open problem in economics: Stigler's 1982 Problem of Value. This universal solution is based upon relative geographical insularity. Ever since Menger's 1883 Problems of Economics and Sociology, conscientious economists have understood the implications of Stigler's Problem of Value; ever since the Silent Spring of 1962, conscientious people everywhere have intuitively understood Stigler's Problem of Value. Unfortunately, this near-universal understanding has culminated in a thoroughly misguided quest for Sustainable Economic Development. Over the past century, a landfill of literature dedicated to this topic has revealed a significant and near-universal error: Those most able to navigate the perilous seas of economics, astutely demonstrate that neoclassical economic theory fails to pass the test of the second law of thermodynamics, then proceed to report this finding as if at long last Stigler's Problem of Value had been solved. Text books, refereed journals, and working papers (especially those denoting “Ecological Economics” as key words) alike conclude that, based upon this revolutionary new perspective, we are now positioned to reshape economic theory and policy. The primary problem, which appears to elude them all is this: economics is a derivative science, not a primary science. This paper employs Island Bioeconomics Problem Solving—an island-based economic modelling technique—in order to demonstrate this fundamental error, and the irrational economic errors and ecological degradation it is generating. Lessons are drawn from Iceland, Prince Edward Island, and beyond. Our Economic Theory of Value based on relative insularity axiomates an inverse relationship between relative insularity and economic development. This theory produces a robust, innovative and counterintuitive solution for Sustainable Economic Development, and, perhaps a tenable solution to The Problem of Global Warming.
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Hume, D. (1739). A treatise of human nature: Being an attempt to introduce the experimental method of reasoning into moral subjects. (1) Our foregoing method of reasoning will easily convince us, that there can be no demonstrative arguments to prove, that those instances, of which we have had no experience, resemble those, of which we have had experience (Hume 1739, Book I, Vol I, p 137). (2) To falsify a knowledge-claim is to provide evidence that it is false. Since the time of David Hume, empiricist philosophy of science has struggled with the problem of induction: namely, how is it possible to justify inference, from a finite set of instances, to the truth of a universal law whose scope is potentially infinite? In the absence of a convincing answer to this question, our everyday and scientific belief in a regular, ordered, and predictable universe must seem to be a physiologically indispensable, but still irrational, habit of mind. The original approach to this problem pioneered by Karl Popper involved a reasoned rejection of the question itself. Popper accepted that the problem of induction was insoluble, but it did not follow that science was irrational, or that it could not progress. Instead of seeing discovery of the truth as the aim of science, we should, rather, see scientific activity as a systematic attempt to ‘falsify’—or refute—bold and imaginative conjectures about the nature of the world. Popper's formulation of this principle is widely acknowledged as one of the most original contributions to the modern philosophy of science1. (3) It took a remarkably long time before the novelty of the intellectual situation was grasped. Few realized what had happened. David Hume…saw that a great step forward had been taken, but he did not understand just how great and how radical this advance in human knowledge really was. I am afraid that even today many people still do not fully understand this [italics mine] (Popper 1992, p 36). (4) The classical notion of science as true, secure and sufficiently justified knowledge still flourishes even today [italics mine]. But it was overtaken sixty years ago by the Einsteinian Revolution; by Einstein’s gravitational theory. The outcome of this revolution is that Einstein’s theory, whether true or false, demonstrates that knowledge in the classical sense, secure knowledge, certainly is impossible. Kant was right: our theories are free creations of our intellect, which we try to impose upon nature. But we are only rarely successful in guessing the truth; and we can never be certain whether we have succeeded. We must make do with conjectural knowledge [italics mine] (Popper 1992, p 37). (5) Hume has permanently influenced the development of the best of philosophers who came after him. Man has an intense desire for assured knowledge. That is why Hume’s clear message seemed crushing [italics mine] (Einstein 1956 p 21-22). (6) There is a problem in inference well-known as the problem of induction. It is a problem that has been haunting science for a long time, but hard science has not been as harmed by it as the social sciences, particularly economics, even more the branch of financial economics (Taleb 2001, p 117). (7) The assumption that economists (italics Hayek’s) can find predictable solutions to economic problems is undoubtedly the most inhibiting force in… economics. It has led to the increasing isolation of theoretical economists from the day-to-day practitioners of the subject—the actual participants in an economy, the consumers and the producers (Hayek 1991, p 9). (8) Kant, in his Critique of Pure Reason, asserted under the influence of Hume that pure speculation or reason, whenever it ventures into a field in which it cannot possibly be checked by experience, is liable to get involved in contradictions or ‘anti-anomies’ and to produce what he unambiguously described as ‘mere fancies’ ; ‘nonsense’ ; ‘illusions’ ; ‘a sterile dogmatism’ ; and ‘a superficial pretension to the knowledge of everything’ (Popper, 1945, vII, p38). (9) Reared on Merton’s and Scholes teachings of efficient markets, the professors [Nobel Laureates Robert S. Merton and Myron Scholes] actually believed that prices would go and go directly where the models said they should. The professors’ conceit was to think that models could forecast limits of behavior. In fact, the models could tell them what was reasonable or what was predicable based on the past” (Lowenstein 2000, p. 234). (10) Belief that tomorrow’s risks can be inferred by from yesterday’s prices and volatilities prevails at virtually every investment bank and trading desk.” (Ibid, p. 235).
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Russell, B. (1938). Power. London: Routledge Classics 2004 edition, preface by Samuel Brittan, introduction by Kirk Willis. Economic power, unlike military power, is not primary, but derivative. Within one State, it depends on law; in international dealings it is only on minor issues that it depends on law, but when large issues are involved it depends upon war or the threat of war. It has been customary to accept economic power without analysis, and this has led, in modern times, to an undue emphasis upon economics, as opposed to war and propaganda, in the causal interpretation of history. Apart from the economic power of labour, all other economic power, in its ultimate analysis, consists in being able to decide, by the use of armed force if necessary, who shall be allowed to stand upon a given piece of land and to put things into it and take things from it [all italics mine, p 95].
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Stigler, G. J. (1982). The process and progress of economics. Retrieved 11/5/2007, 2007, from http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/economics/laureates/1982/stigler-lecture.html Abstract: The lecture focuses on the reasons that new ideas are accepted or rejected by a science. A distinction is drawn between pre-scientific and scientific stages of a discipline. The diverse fates of new ideas are illustrated by a variety of episodes in the history of economics, including the economics of information and the theory of economic regulation. (1) In economics the most fundamental of these central problems is the theory of value. The theory of value must explain how the comparative values of different goods and services are established. Until that problem is solved, it is not possible to analyse for scientific purposes what will be produced and in what quantities, how the resources will be employed in producing the menu of outputs, and how the resources will be valued. Without a theory of value the economist can have no theory of international trade nor possibly a theory of money. This central problem of value does not change in its essential content if one seeks to explain values in rural or urban societies, or in agricultural or industrial societies. Indeed, if the problem of value were so chameleon like as to alter its nature whenever the economic or political system altered, each epoch in economic life would require its own theory, and short epochs would get short-lived theories (p 61).
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