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Although the mechanical philosophy is long dead and buried, our age is not without its own dogma regarding properly scientific explanations. Today, the prevailing belief is that any real science must be composed of mathematical models, models which yield quantitative predictions about some class of events based on particular, initial conditions, also specified numerically. Once again, the currently popular methodology has been imposed on diverse disciplines with little regard to whether it is suitable to their subject matter, but simply because it is thought to be the only respectable way to do science. The philosopher John Dupré calls this "scientific imperialism," meaning "the tendency for a successful scientific idea to be applied far beyond its original home, and generally with decreasing success the more its application is expanded" (2001, p. 16). Once again, we see a frantic effort to generate models fitting the accepted paradigm, with little regard for the realism of the assumptions and mechanisms from which they are constructed.###

At this point, the relevance of the history of the mechanical philosophy to the circumstances with which Austrian economists currently struggle should be apparent. It illustrates a number of points that can be used to defend their embrace of an unfashionable view of economics:

  • It is not the case that science always makes steady progress; it sometimes enters cul-de-sacs that it must eventually back out of in order to move forward again. That is especially the case when a methodology from one science is imposed on another without concern for its aptness in the new domain.

  • It is not the case that scientific truth can be decided by a "market test" ; science is not toothpaste, and markets cater to the preferences of participants, without regard to whether those preferences arise from scrupulous examination or ill-considered prejudice.

  • It is not the case that a real science must forget its founders ; often, the key needed to unlock some gate barring the way forward can be found in the ideas of a long-dead thinker.
    And it is not the case that scientists should placidly drift with the prevalent methodological tide like so many jellyfish bobbing in the waves; the greatest scientists have often been the ones who had the courage to swim against the current.