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Economics 151A
1. In the bivariate regression model Yi =  + X i +  i , the error term ε captures influences
on Y that are not included in the model.
a. What has to be true about the relationship between ε and X for the estimate of β to
be unbiased?
b. Suppose a new pizza shop owner is trying to decide how much to charge, by
collecting data on prices of pizzas (X) and quantities sold (Y) from local pizza shops.
Give an example of something that might be included in ε and bias the estimate of β.
Give an example of something that might be included in ε that would probably not
bias the estimate of β.
c. Suggest a multivariate regression that the pizza shop owner should run to get a
better answer to the question of how the price she charges is likely to affect quantities
sold. (Remember that a multivariate regression can have many included variables,
not just two.)
2. Between 1996 and 2004, California raised its minimum wage from \$4.75 to \$6.75. In that
period, total employment grew from 14.3 million to 16.5 million. A policymaker arguing in
favor of a minimum wage increase argues that evidence demonstrates that raising the
minimum wage does not reduce employment, but rather increases it. How would you
evaluate this argument, and how would you propose using data to study this question?
3. Suppose a firm uses labor L and capital K to product output y, with the production function
y = L1/ 2 K 1/ 2 . Suppose the firm sells its output in a competitive labor market at price p, and
buys labor in a competitive market at price w, and assume the firm maximizes profits.
a. Let the level of capital be fixed at K in the short-run. Provide an expression for
the demand curve for labor.
b. Using your answer for part a, how does L change with w, p, and K ? Explain why
each of these changes makes sense.
4. Suppose a firm uses only one input (L) to produce output y, with the production function
y = L1/ 2 . Suppose the firm sells its output in a competitive market at price p, and buys labor
in a competitive market at price w.
a. Write an expression for the profits of the firm as a function of w, p, and L.
b. What is the marginal cost of hiring an additional unit of labor? Graph the marginal
cost of labor curve.
c. What is the marginal revenue from hiring an additional unit of labor? Graph the
marginal revenue curve on the same graph as in part b.
d. Assume the firm maximizes profits. How much labor should it hire as a function
of the real wage w/p? Find the solution for L, and also display it on the graph.
e. Does the firm hire more or less labor as p increases? Why?
5. Assume everything is the same as in Problem 4, except that the firm is a monopolist, and
faces downward sloping demand curve p(y) = a −by.
a. Write an expression for the profits of the firm as a function of w, p, and L.
b. What is the marginal revenue from hiring an additional unit of labor? Graph the
marginal revenue curve and the marginal cost curve (which is the same as in 5.b).
c. Assume the firm maximizes profits. How much labor should it hire as a function
of a, b, and w? Find the solution for L, and also display it on the graph.
d. Why is the equation for the profit-maximizing choice for L in this case not a
function of p?
e. Show that labor demand declines if the wage increases.
f. Show that labor demand increases if demand for the firm’s product increases.
6. Suppose a firm’s production function is Q = L + 2∙K.
a. Graph isoquants for Q = 6, 9, and 12.
b. Suppose w, the price of labor, and r, the price of capital, both equal 1. Draw the
isocost lie for C (the cost) = 6. What combination of inputs L and K does the firm
choose?
c. Now suppose w = 1 and r = 3. Draw the isocost line for C = 6. What combination
of inputs L and K does the firm choose.
d. When r goes from 1 to 3, what is the magnitude of the substitution effect for L?
What is the magnitude of the scale effect for L (defined for staying on the same
isocost line)?
7. Suppose a firm’s production function is Q = min(L,K). (This means the level of Q
produced is the smaller of L and K.)
a. Graph some isoquants for this firm.
b. Let w = 2, r = 1, and suppose the firm’s expenditures are C = 12. What are the
firm’s demands for L and K? What is the share of labor in the cost of output?
c. Now let w rise to 3. What are the firm’s new demands for L and K?
d. Now suppose instead that the production function is Q = min(L,2K). Draw some
isoquants for this firm.
e. Again, let w = 2 and r = 1, and suppose the firm’s expenditures are C = 12. What
are the firm’s demands for L and K? What is the share of labor in the cost of output?
f. Now let w rise to 3. What are the firm’s new demands for L and K?
g. Why does labor demand fall more in part f than in part c? (Hint: Use one of
Marshall’s Laws.)
Milton Friedman
“The Methodology of Positive Economics”
In Essays In Positive Economics
(Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1966), pp. 3-16, 30-43.
The Methodology of Positive Economics*
In his admirable book on The Scope and Method of Political
Economy, John Neville Keynes distinguishes among “a positive
science . . . a body of systematized knowledge concerning what is; a
normative or regulative science … a body of systematized knowledge
discussing criteria of what ought to be . . . ; an art … a system of
rules for the attainment of a given end”; comments that “confusion
between them is common and has been the source of many
mischievous errors”; and urges the importance of “recognizing a
distinct positive science of political economy.”1
This paper is concerned primarily with certain methodological
problems that arise in constructing the “distinct positive science”
Keynes called for – in particular, the problem how to decide whether
a suggested hypothesis or theory should be tentatively accepted as
part of the “body of systematized knowledge concerning what is.” But
the confusion Keynes laments is still so rife and so much of a
hindrance to the recognition that economics can be, and in part is, a
positive science that it seems well to preface the main body of the
paper with a few remarks about the relation, between positive and
normative economics.
1. THE RELATION BETWEEN POSITIVE AND NORMATIVE
ECONOMICS
Confusion between positive and normative economics is to some
extent inevitable. The subject matter of economics is regarded by
almost everyone as vitally important to himself and within the range
of his own experience and competence; it is
most of my brief “Comment” in A Survey of Contemporary Economics,
Vol. II (B. F. Haley, ed.) (Chicago: Richard D. Irwin, Inc., 1952), pp.
455-57.
I am indebted to Dorothy S. Brady, Arthur F. Burns, and George J.
1. (London: Macmillan 4 Co., 1891), pp. 34-35 and 46.
3
4
the source of continuous and extensive controversy and the occasion
for frequent legislation. Self-proclaimed “experts” speak with many
voices and can hardly all be regarded as disinterested; in any event,
on questions that matter so much, “expert” opinion could hardly be
accepted solely on faith even if the “experts” were nearly unanimous
and clearly disinterested.2 The conclusions of positive economics
seem to be, and are, immediately relevant to important normative
problems, to questions of what ought to be done and how any given
goal can be attained. Laymen and experts alike are inevitably
tempted to shape positive conclusions to fit strongly held normative
preconceptions and to reject positive conclusions if their normative,
implications – or what are said to be their normative implications are unpalatable.
Positive economics is in principle independent of any particular
ethical position or normative judgments. As Keynes says, it deals with
“what is,” not with “what ought to be.” Its task is to provide a system
of generalizations that can be used to make correct predictions about
the consequences of any change in circumstances. Its performance is
to be judged by the precision, scope, and conformity with experience
of the predictions it yields. In short, positive economics is, or can be,
an “objective” science, in precisely the same sense as any of the
physical sciences. Of course, the fact that economics deals with the
interrelations of human beings, and that the investigator is himself
part of the subject matter being investigated in a more intimate sense
than in the physical sciences, raises special difficulties in achieving
objectivity at the same time that it provides the social scientist with a
class of data not available to the physical
2. Social science or economics is by no means peculiar in this respect witness the importance of personal beliefs and of “home” remedies in
medicine wherever obviously convincing evidence for “expert” opinion is
lacking. The current prestige and acceptance of the views of physical
scientists in their fields of specialization – and,, all too often, in other
fields as well – derives, not from faith alone, but from the evidence of
their works, the success of their predictions, and the dramatic
achievements from applying, their results. When economics seemed to
provide such evidence of its worth, in Great Britain in the first half of the
nineteenth century, the prestige and acceptance of “scientific economics”
rivaled the current prestige of the physical sciences.
5
scientist. But neither the one nor the other is, in my view, a fundamental distinction between the two groups of sciences.3
Normative economics and the art of economics, on the other hand,
cannot be independent of positive economics. Any policy conclusion
necessarily rests on a prediction about the consequences of doing one
thing rather than another, a prediction that must be based – implicitly
or explicitly – on positive economics. There is not, of course, a
one-to-one relation between policy conclusions and the conclusions
of positive economics; if there were, there would be no separate
normative science. Two individuals may agree on the consequences
of a particular piece of legislation. One may regard them as desirable
on balance and so favor the legislation; the other, as undesirable and
so oppose the legislation.
I venture the judgment, however, that currently in the Western
world, and especially in the United States, differences about
economic policy among disinterested citizens derive predominantly
from different predictions about the economic consequences of taking
action – differences that in principle can be eliminated by the
progress of positive economics – rather than from fundamental
differences in basic values, differences about which men can
ultimately only fight. An obvious and not unimportant example is
minimum-wage legislation. Underneath the welter of arguments
offered for and against such legislation there is an underlying
consensus on the objective of achieving a “living wage” for all, to use
the ambiguous phrase so common in such discussions. The difference
of opinion is largely grounded on an implicit or explicit difference in
predictions about the efficacy of this particular means in furthering
the agreed-on end. Proponents believe (predict) that legal minimum
wages diminish poverty by raising the wages of those receiving less
than the minimum wage as well as of some receiving more than the
3. The interaction between the observer and the process observed that is
so prominent a feature of the social sciences, besides its more obvious
parallel in the physical sciences, has a more subtle counterpart in the
indeterminacy principle arising out of the interaction between the process
of measurement and the phenomena being measured. And both have a
counterpart in pure logic in Godel’s theorem, asserting the impossibility
of a comprehensive self-contained logic. It is an open question whether
all three can be regarded as different formulations of an even more
general principle.
6
minimum wage without any counterbalancing increase in the number
of people entirely unemployed or employed less advantageously than
they otherwise would be. Opponents believe (predict) that legal
minimum wages increase poverty by increasing the number of people
who are unemployed or employed less advantageously and that this
more than offsets any favorable effect on the wages of those who
remain employed. Agreement about the economic consequences of the
legislation might not produce complete agreement about its
desirability, for differences might still remain about its political or
social consequences; but, given agreement on objectives, it would
certainly go a long way toward producing consensus.
Closely related differences in positive analysis underlie divergent
desirability of direct price and wage controls and of tariffs. Different
predictions about the importance of so-called “economies of scale”
account very largely for divergent views about the desirability or
necessity of detailed government regulation of industry and even of
socialism rather than private enterprise. And this list could be
extended indefinitely.4 Of course, my judgment that the major
differences about economic policy in the Western world are of this
kind is itself a “positive” statement to be accepted or rejected on the
basis of empirical evidence.
If this judgment is valid, it means that a consensus on “correct”
economic policy depends much less on the progress of normative
economics proper than, on the progress of a positive economics
yielding conclusions that are, and deserve to be, widely accepted. It
means also that a major reason for
4. One rather more complex example is stabilization policy.
Superficially, divergent views on this question seem to reflect differences
in objectives; but I believe that this impression is misleading and that at
bottom the different views reflect primarily different judgments about the
source of fluctuations in economic activity and the effect of alternative
countercyclical action. For one major positive consideration that accounts
for much of the divergence see “The Effects of a Full-Employment Policy
on Economic Stability: A Formal Analysis,” infra, pp. 117-32. For a
summary of the present state of professional views on this question see
“The Problem of Economic Instability,” a report of a subcommittee of the
Committee on Public Issues of the American Economic Association,
American Economic Review, XL (September, 1950), 501-38.
7
distinguishing positive. economics sharply from normative economics
is precisely the contribution that can thereby be made to
II. POSITIVE ECONOMICS
The ultimate goal of a positive science is the development of a
“theory” or, “hypothesis” that yields valid and meaningful (i.e., not
truistic) predictions about phenomena not yet observed. Such a theory
is, in general, a complex intermixture of two elements. In part, it is a
“language” designed to promote “systematic and organized methods
of reasoning.”5 In part, it is a body of substantive hypotheses
designed to abstract essential features of complex reality.
Viewed as a language, theory has no substantive content; it is a set
of tautologies. Its function is to serve as a filing system for
organizing empirical material and facilitating our understanding of it;
and the criteria by which it is to be judged are those appropriate to a
filing system. Are, the categories clearly and precisely defined? Are
they exhaustive? Do we know where to file each individual, item, or
is there considerable ambiguity? Is the system of headings and
subheadings so designed that we can quickly find an item we want, or
must we hunt from place to place? Are the items we shall want to
consider jointly filed together? Does the filing system avoid elaborate
cross-references?
The answers to these questions depend partly on logical, partly on
factual, considerations. The canons ‘of formal logic alone can show
whether a particular language is complete and consistent, that is,
whether propositions in the language are “right” or “wrong.” Factual
evidence alone can show whether the categories of the “analytical
filing system” have a meaningful empirical counterpart, that is,
whether they are useful in analyzing a particular class of concrete
problems.6 The simple example of “supply” and “demand” illustrates
both this point and the
5. Final quoted phrase from Alfred Marshall, “The Present Position of
Economics” (1885), reprinted in Memorials of Alfred Marshall, ed. A. C.
Marshallian Demand Curve,” infra, pp. 56-57, 90-91.
6. See ‘Lange on Price Flexibility and Employment: A Methodological
Criticism,” infra, pp. 282-89.
8
preceding list of analogical questions. Viewed as elements of the
language of economic theory, these are the two major categories into
which factors affecting the relative prices of products or factors of
production are classified. The usefulness of the dichotomy depends on
the “empirical generalization that an enumeration of the forces
affecting demand in any problem and of the forces affecting supply
will yield two lists that contain few items in common.7 Now this
generalization is valid for markets like the final market for a
consumer good. In such a market there is a clear and sharp distinction
between the economic units that can be regarded as demanding the
product and those that can be regarded as supplying it. There is
seldom much doubt whether a particular factor should be classified as
affecting supply, on the one hand, or demand, on the other; and there
is seldom much necessity for considering cross-effects
(cross-references) between the two categories. In these cases the
simple and even obvious step of filing the relevant factors under the
headings of “supply” and “demand” effects a great simplification of
the problem and is an effective safeguard against fallacies that,
otherwise tend to occur. But the generalization is not always valid.
For example, it is not valid for the day-to-day fluctuations of prices in
a primarily speculative market, Is a rumor of an increased
excess-profits tax, for example, to be regarded as a factor operating
primarily on today’s supply of corporate equities in the stock market
or on today’s demand for them? In similar fashion, almost every
factor can with about as much justification be classified under the
still be used and may not be entirely pointless; they are still “right”
but clearly less useful than in the first example because they have no
meaningful empirical counterpart.
Viewed as a body of substantive hypotheses, theory is to be
judged by its predictive power for the class of phenomena which it is
intended to “explain.” Only factual evidence can show whether it is
“right” or “wrong” or, better, tentatively “accepted” as valid or
“rejected.” As I shall argue at greater length below, the only relevant
test of the validity of a hypothesis is
7. “The Marshallian Demand Curve,” infra, p. 57.
9
comparison of its predictions with experience. The hypothesis
is rejected if its predictions are contradicted (“frequently” or
more often than predictions from an alternative hypothesis);
it is accepted if its predictions are not contradicted; great
confidence is attached to it if it has survived many opportunities
for contradiction. Factual evidence can never “prove” a hypothesis;
it can only fail to disprove it, which is what we generally
mean when we say, somewhat inexactly, that the hypothesis has
been “confirmed” by experience.
To avoid confusion, it should perhaps be noted explicitly that the
“predictions” by which the validity of a hypothesis is tested need not
be about phenomena that have not yet occurred, that is, need not be
forecasts of future events; they may be about phenomena that have
occurred but observations on which have not yet been made or are
not known to the person making the prediction. For example, a
hypothesis may imply that such and such must have happened in
1906, given some other known circumstances. If a search of the
records reveals that such and such did happen, the prediction is
confirmed; if it reveals that such and such did not happen, the
The validity of a hypothesis in this sense is not by itself a
sufficient criterion for choosing among alternative hypotheses.
Observed facts are necessarily finite in number; possible hypotheses,
infinite. If there is one hypothesis that is consistent with the available
evidence, there are always an infinite number that are. 8 For example,
suppose a specific excise tax on a particular commodity produces a
rise in price equal to the amount of the tax. This is consistent with
competitive conditions, a stable demand curve, and a horizontal and
stable supply curve. But it is also consistent with competitive
conditions and a positively or negatively sloping supply curve with
the required compensating shift in the demand curve or the supply
curve; with monopolistic conditions, constant marginal costs, and
stable demand curve, of the particular shape required to produce this
result; and so on indefinitely. Additional evidence with which the
I
8. The qualification is necessary because the “evidence” may be
internally contradictory, so there may be no hypothesis consistent with it.
282-83.
10
hypothesis is to be consistent may rule out some of these possibilities; it can never reduce them to a single possibility alone capable
of being consistent with the finite evidence. The choice among
alternative hypotheses equally consistent with the available evidence
must to some extent be arbitrary, though there is general agreement
that relevant considerations are suggested by the criteria “simplicity”
and “fruitfulness,” themselves notions that defy completely objective
specification. A theory is “simpler” the less the initial knowledge
needed to make a prediction within a given field of phenomena; it is
more “fruitful” the more precise the resulting prediction, the wider
the area within which the theory yields predictions, and the more
additional lines for further research it suggests. Logical completeness
and consistency are relevant but play a subsidiary role; their function
is to assure that the hypothesis says what it is intended to say and
does so alike for all users-they play the same role here as checks for
arithmetical accuracy do in statistical computations.
Unfortunately, we can seldom test particular predictions in the
social sciences by experiments explicitly designed to eliminate what
are judged to be the most important disturbing influences. Generally,
we must rely on evidence cast up by the “experiments” that happen to
occur. The inability to conduct so-called “controlled experiments”
does not, in my view, reflect a basic difference between the social
and physical sciences both because it is not peculiar to the social
sciences – witness astronomy and because the distinction between a
controlled experiment and uncontrolled experience is at best one of
degree. No experiment can be completely controlled, and every
experience is partly controlled, in the sense that some disturbing
influences are relatively constant in the course of it.
Evidence cast up by experience is abundant and frequently as
conclusive as that from contrived experiments; thus the inability to
conduct experiments is not a fundamental obstacle to testing
hypotheses by the success of their predictions. But such evidence is
far more difficult to interpret. It is frequently complex and always
indirect and incomplete. Its collection is often arduous, and its
interpretation generally requires subtle
11
analysis and involved chains of reasoning, which seldom carry real
conviction. The denial to economics of the dramatic and direct
evidence of the “crucial” experiment does hinder the adequate testing
of hypotheses; but this is much less significant than the difficulty it
places in the way of achieving a reasonably prompt and wide
consensus on the conclusions justified by the available evidence. It
renders the weeding-out of unsuccessful hypotheses slow and
difficult. They are seldom downed for good and are always cropping
up again.
There is, of course, considerable variation in these respects.
Occasionally, experience casts up evidence that is about as direct,
dramatic, and convincing as any that could be provided by
controlled experiments. Perhaps the most obviously important
example is the evidence from inflation on the hypothesis that a
substantial increase in the quantity of money within a relatively
short period is accompanied by a substantial increase in prices.
Here the evidence is dramatic, and the chain of reasoning
required to interpret it is relatively short. Yet, despite numerous
instances of substantial rises in prices, their essentially one-to
one correspondence with substantial rises in the stock of money,
and, the wide variation in other circumstances that might appear
to be relevant, each new experience of inflation brings forth
vigorous contentions, and not only by the lay public, that the
rise in the stock of money is either an incidental effect of a rise
in prices produced by other factors or a purely fortuitous and
unnecessary concomitant of the price rise.
One effect of the difficulty of testing substantive economic
hypotheses has been to foster a retreat into purely formal or
tautological analysis.9 As already, noted, tautologies have an
extremely important place in economics and other sciences as a
specialized language or “analytical filing system.” Beyond this,
formal logic and mathematics, which are both tautologies, are
essential aids in checking the correctness of reasoning, discovering
the implications of hypotheses, and determining whether supposedly
different hypotheses may not really be equivalent or wherein the
differences lie..
But economic theory must be more than a structure of tautologies
9. See “Lange on Price Flexibility and Employment,” infra, passim.
12
Essays in Positive Economics
if it is to be able to predict and not merely describe the consequences
of action; if it is to be something different from disguised
mathematics.10 And the usefulness of the tautologies themselves
ultimately depends, as noted above, on the acceptability of the
substantive hypotheses that suggest the particular categories into
which they organize the refractory empirical phenomena.
A more serious effect of the difficulty of testing economic
hypotheses by their predictions is to foster misunderstanding of the
role of empirical evidence in theoretical work. Empirical evidence is
vital at two different, though closely related, stages: in constructing
hypotheses and in testing their validity. Full and comprehensive
evidence on the phenomena to be generalized or “explained” by a
hypothesis, besides its obvious value in suggesting new hypotheses,
is needed to assure that a hypothesis explains what it sets out to
explain – that its implications for such phenomena are not
observed.11 Given that the hypothesis is
Hypothesis and the Measurability of Utility,” Journal of Political
Economy, LX (December, 1952), 463-74, esp. pp. 465-67.
11. In recent years some economists, particularly a group connected
with the Cowles Commission for Research in Economics at the University
of Chicago, have placed great emphasis on a division of this step of
selecting a hypothesis consistent with known evidence into two substeps:
first, the selection of a class of admissible hypotheses from all possible
hypotheses (the choice of a “Model” in their terminology) ; second, the
selection, of one hypothesis from this class (the choice of a “structure”).
This subdivision may be heuristically valuable in some kinds of work,
particularly in promoting a systematic use of available statistical evidence
and theory. From a methodological point of view, however, it’is an
entirely arbitrary subdivision of the process of deciding on a particular
hypothesis that is on a par with many other subdivisions that may be
convenient for one purpose or another or that may suit the psychological
needs of particular investigators.
One consequence of this particular subdivision has been to give rise to
the so-called “identification” problem. As noted above, if one hypothesis
is consistent with available evidence, an infinite number are. But, while
this is true for the class of hypotheses as a whole, it may not be true of the
subclass obtained in the first of the above two steps-the “model.” It may be
that the evidence to be used to select the final hypothesis from the subclass
can be consistent with at most one hypothesis in it, in which case the
“model” is said to be “identified”; otherwise it is said to be “unidentified.”
As is clear from this way of describing the concept of “identification,” it is
essentially a special case of the more general
13
consistent with the evidence at hand, its further testing involves
deducing from it new facts capable of being observed but not
previously known and checking these deduced facts against additional empirical evidence. For this test to be relevant, the deduced
facts must be about the class of phenomena the hypothesis is
designed to explain; and they must be well enough defined so that
observation can show them to be wrong.
The two stages of constructing hypotheses and testing their
validity are related in two different respects. In the first place, the
particular facts that enter at each stage are partly an accident of the
collection of data and the knowledge of the particular investigator.
The facts that serve as a test of the implications of a hypothesis
might equally well have been among the raw material used to
construct it, and conversely. In the second place, the process never
begins from scratch; the so-called “initial stage” itself always
involves comparison of the implications of an earlier set of
hypotheses with observation; the contradiction of these implications
is the stimulus to the construction of new
problem of selecting among the alternative hypotheses equally consistent
with the evidence-a problem that must be decided by some such arbitrary
principle as Occam’s razor. The introduction of two substeps in selecting a
hypothesis’ makes this problem arise at the two corresponding stages and
gives it a special cast. While the class of all hypotheses is always
unidentified, the subclass in a “model” need not be, so the problem arises
of conditions that a “model” must satisfy to be identified. However useful
the two substeps may be in some contexts, their introduction raises the
danger that different criteria will unwittingly be used in making the same
kind-of choice among alternative hypotheses at two different stages.
On the general methodological approach discussed in this footnote see
Tryvge Haavelmo, “The Probability Approach in Econometrics,”
Econometrica, Vol. XII (1944), Supplement; Jacob Marschak, “Economic
Structure, Path, Policy, and Prediction,” American Economic Review,
XXXVII, (May, 1947), 81-84, and “Statistical Inference in Economics: An
Introduction,” in T. C. Koopmans (ed.), Statistical Inference in Dynamic
Economic Models (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1950); T. C,
Koopmans, “Statistical Estimation of Simultaneous Economic Relations,”
Journal of the American Statistical Association, XL (December, 1945),
448-66; Gershon Cooper, “The Role of Economic Theory in Econometric
Models,” Journal of Farm Economics, XXX (February, 1948), 101-16. On
the identification problem see Koopmans, “Identification Problems in
Econometric Model Construction,” Econometrica, XVII (April, 1949),
125-44; Leonid Hurwicz, “Generalization of the Concept of
Identification,” in Koopmans (ed.), Statistical Inference in Dynamic
Economic Models.
14
hypotheses or revision of old ones. So the two methodologically distinct
stages are always proceeding jointly.
centers on the phrase “the class of phenomena the hypothesis is
designed to explain.” The difficulty in the social sciences of getting
new evidence for this class of phenomena and of judging its
conformity with the implications of the hypothesis makes it tempting
to suppose that other, more readily available, evidence is equally
relevant to the validity of the hypothesis-to suppose that hypotheses
have not only “implications” but also “assumptions” and that the
conformity of these “assumptions” to “reality” is a test of the validity
of the hypothesis different from or additional to the test by
implications. This widely held view is fundamentally wrong and
productive of much mischief. Far from, providing an easier means
for sifting valid from invalid hypotheses, it only confuses the issue,
promotes misunderstanding about the significance of empirical
evidence for economic theory, produces a misdirection of much
intellectual effort devoted to the development of positive economics,
and impedes the attainment of consensus on tentative hypotheses in
positive economics.
In so far as a theory can be said to have “assumptions” at all, and in
so far as their “realism” can be judged independently of the validity of
predictions, the relation between the significance of a theory and the
“realism” of its “assumptions” is almost the opposite of that suggested by
the view under criticism. Truly important and significant hypotheses will
be found to have “assumptions” that are wildly inaccurate descriptive
representations of reality, and, in general, the more significant the
theory, the more unrealistic the assumptions (in this sense).12 The reason
is simple. A hypothesis is important if it “explains” much by little, that
is, if it abstracts the common and crucial elements from the mass of
complex and detailed circumstances surrounding the phenomena to be
explained and permits valid predictions on the basis of them alone. To be
important, therefore, a hypothesis must be descriptively false in its
assumptions; it
12. The converse of the proposition does not- of course hold:
assumptions that are unrealistic (in this sense) do not guarantee a
significant theory.
15
takes account of, and accounts for, none of the many other attendant
circumstances, since its very success shows them to be irrelevant for
the phenomena to be explained.
about the “assumptions” of a theory is not whether they are
descriptively “realistic,” for they never are, but whether they are
sufficiently good approximations for the purpose in hand. And this
question can be answered only by seeing whether the theory works,
which means whether it yields sufficiently accurate predictions. The
two supposedly independent tests thus reduce to one test.
The theory of monopolistic and imperfect competition is one
example of the neglect in economic theory of these propositions. The
development of this analysis was explicitly motivated, and its wide
acceptance and approval largely explained, by the belief that the
assumptions of “perfect competition” or, “perfect monopoly” said to
underlie neoclassical economic theory are a false image of reality.
And this belief was itself based almost entirely on the directly
perceived descriptive inaccuracy of the assumptions rather than on
any recognized contradiction of predictions derived from neoclassical
economic theory. The lengthy discussion on marginal analysis in the
American Economic Review some years ago is an even clearer,
though much less important, example. The articles on both sides of
the controversy largely neglect what seems to me clearly the main
issue – the conformity to experience of the implications of, the
marginal analysis – and concentrate on the largely irrelevant question
whether businessmen do or do not in fact reach their decisions by
consulting schedules, or curves, or multivariable functions showing
marginal cost and marginal revenue. 13 Perhaps these
13. See R. A. Lester, “Shortcomings of Marginal Analysis for
Wage-Employment Problems,” American Economic Review, XXXVI
(March, 1946), 62-82; Fritz Machlup, “Marginal Analysis and Empirical
Research,” American Economic Review, XXXVI (September, 1946),
519-54; R. A. Lester, “Marginalism, Minimum Wages, and Labor
Markets,” American Economic Review, XXXVII (March, 1947), 135-48;
Fritz Machlup, “Rejoinder to an Antimarginalist,” American Economic
Review, XXXVII (March, 1947), 148-54; G. J. Stigler, “Professor Lester
and the Marginalists,” American Economic Review, XXXVII (March,
1947), 154-57; H. M. Oliver, Jr., “Marginal Theory and Business
Behavior,” American Economic Review,, XXXVII (June, 1947), 375-83;
R. A. Gordon,
16
two examples, and the many others they readily suggest, will
serve to justify a more extensive discussion of the methodological
principles involved than might otherwise seem appropriate.
“Short-Period Price Determination in Theory and Practice,” American
Economic Review, XXXVIII (June, 1948), 265-88.
It should be noted that, along with much material purportedly
bearing on the validity of the “assumptions” of marginal theory, Lester
does refer to evidence on the conformity of experience with the
implications of the theory, citing the reactions of employment in
Germany to the Papen plan and in the United States to changes in
minimum-wage legislation as examples of lack of conformity.
However, Stigler’s brief comment is the only one of the other papers
that refers to this evidence. It should also be noted that Machlup’s
thorough and careful exposition of the logical structure and meaning
of marginal analysis is called for by the misunderstandings on this
score that mar Lester’s paper and almost conceal the evidence he
presents that is relevant to the key issue he raises. But, in Machlup’s
emphasis on the logical structure, he comes perilously close to presenting the theory as a pure tautology, though it is evident at a number
of points that he is aware of this danger and anxious to avoid it. The
papers by Oliver and Gordon are the most extreme in the exclusive
concentration on the conformity of the behavior of businessmen with
the “assumptions” of the theory.
30
V. SOME IMPLICATIONS FOR ECONOMIC ISSUES
The abstract methodological issues we have been discussing have
a direct bearing on the perennial criticism of “orthodox” economic
theory as “unrealistic” as well as on the attempts that have been
made to reformulate theory to meet this charge. Economics is a
“dismal” science because it assumes man to be selfish and
money-grubbing, “a lightning calculator of pleasures and pains, who
oscillates like a homogeneous globule of desire of happiness under
the impulse of stimuli that shift him about the area, but leave him
intact”20; it rests on outmoded psychology and must be reconstructed
in line with each new development in psychology; it assumes men, or
change prices and/or pricing rules whenever their sensitive intuitions
. . . detect a change in demand and supply conditions”;21 it
20. Thorstein Veblen, “Why Is Economics Not an Evolutionary
Science?” (1898), reprinted in The Place of Science in Modern
Civilization (New York, 1919), p. 73.
21. Oliver, op. cit, p. 381.
31
assumes markets to be perfect, competition to be pure, and
commodities, labor, and capital to be homogeneous.
As we have seen, criticism of this type is largely beside the point
unless supplemented by evidence that a hypothesis differing in one or
another of these respects from the theory being criticized yields
better predictions for as wide a range of phenomena. Yet most such
criticism is not so supplemented; it is based almost entirely on
supposedly directly perceived discrepancies between the
“assumptions” and the “real world.” A particularly clear example is
furnished by the recent criticisms of the maximization-of-returns
hypothesis on the grounds that businessmen do not and indeed cannot
behave as the theory “assumes” they do. The evidence cited to
support this assertion is generally taken either from the answers
decisions – a procedure for testing economic theories that is about on
a par with testing theories of longevity by asking octogenarians how
they account for their long life – or from descriptive studies of the
decision-making activities of individual firms.22 Little if any evidence
is ever cited on the conformity of businessmen’s actual market
behavior – what they do rather than what they say they do – with the
implications of the hypothesis being criticized, on the one hand, and
of an alternative hypothesis, on the other.
22. See H. D. Henderson, “The Significance of the Rate of Interest,”
Oxford Economic Papers, No. I (October, 1938), pp. 1-13; J. E. Meade
and P. W. S. Andrews, “Summary of Replies to Questions on Effects of
Interest Rates,” Oxford Economic Papers, No. I (October, 1938), pp.
14-31; R. F. Harrod, “Price, and Cost in Entrepreneurs’ Policy,” Oxford
Economic Papers, No. 2 (May, 1939), pp. 1-11; and R. J. Hall and C. J.
Hitch, “Price Theory and Business Behavior,” Oxford Economic Papers,
No. 2 (May, 1939), pp. 12-45; Lester, “Shortcomings of Marginal
Analysis for Wage-Employment Problems,” op. cit.; Gordon, op. cit. See
Fritz Machlup, “Marginal Analysis and Empirical Research,” op. cit.,
esp. Sec. II, for detailed criticisms of questionnaire methods.
I do not mean to imply that questionnaire studies of businessmen’s or
others’ motives or beliefs about the forces affecting their behavior are
useless for all purposes in economics. They may be extremely valuable in
predicted and observed results; that is, in constructing new hypotheses or
revising old ones. Whatever their suggestive value in this respect, they
seem to me almost entirely useless as a means. of testing the validity of
economic hypotheses. See my comment on Albert G. Hart’s paper,
“Liquidity and Uncertainty,” American Economic Review, XXXIX (May,
1949), 198-99.
32
A theory or its “assumptions” cannot possibly be thoroughly
“realistic” in the immediate descriptive sense so often assigned, to
this term. A completely “realistic” theory of the wheat market. would
have to include not only the conditions directly underlying the supply
and demand for wheat but also the kind of coins or credit instruments
used to make exchanges; the personal characteristics of
wheat-traders such as the color of each trader’s hair and eyes, his
antecedents and education, the number of members of his family,
their characteristics, antecedents, and education, etc.; the kind of soil
on which the wheat was grown, its physical and chemical
characteristics, the weather prevailing during the growing season; the
personal characteristics of the farmers growing the wheat and of the
consumers who will ultimately use it; and so on indefinitely. Any
attempt to move very far in achieving this kind of “‘realism” is certain
to render a theory utterly useless.
Of course, the notion of a completely realistic theory is in part a
straw man. No. critic of a theory would accept this logical extreme
as his objective; he would say that the “assumptions” of the theory
being criticized were “too” unrealistic and that his objective was a set
of assumptions that were “more” realistic though still not completely
and slavishly so. But so long as the test of “realism” is the directly
perceived descriptive accuracy of the “assumptions” – for example,
the observation that “businessmen do not appear to be either as
avaricious or as dynamic or as logical as marginal theory portrays
them,”23 or that “it would be utterly impractical under present
conditions for the manager of a multi-process plant to attempt . . . to
work out and equate marginal costs and marginal revenues for each
productive factor”24 there is no basis for making such a distinction,
that is, for stopping short of the straw man depicted in the preceding
paragraph. What is the criterion by which to judge whether a
particular departure from realism is or is not acceptable? Why is it
more “unrealistic” in analyzing business behavior to neglect the
magnitude of businessmen’s costs than the
23. Oliver, op. cit, p. 382.
24. Lester, “Shortcomings of Marginal Analysis for Wage-Employment
Problems,” op. cit., P. 75.
33
color of their eyes? The obvious answer is because the first makes
more difference to business behavior than the second; but there is no
way of knowing that this is so simply by observing that businessmen
do have costs of different magnitudes and eyes of different color.
Clearly it can only be known by comparing the effect on the
discrepancy between actual and predicted behavior of taking the one
factor or the other into account. Even the most extreme proponents
of realistic assumptions are thus necessarily driven to reject their
own criterion and to accept the test by prediction when they classify
alternative assumptions as more or less realistic.25
The basic confusion between descriptive accuracy and analytical
relevance that underlies most criticisms of economic theory on the
grounds that its assumptions are unrealistic as well as the
plausibility of the views that lead to this confusion are both
strikingly illustrated by a seemingly innocuous remark in an article
on business-cycle theory that “economic phenomena are varied and
complex, so any comprehensive theory of the business cycle that
can apply closely to reality must be very complicated.”26 A
fundamental hypothesis of science is that appearances are deceptive
and that there is a way of looking at or interpreting or, organizing
the evidence that will reveal superficially disconnected and diverse
phenomena to be manifestations of a more fundamental and
relatively simple structure. And the test of this hypothesis, as of any
other, is its fruits – a test that science has
25. E.g., Gordon’s direct examination of the “assumptions” leads him to
formulate the alternative hypothesis generally favored by the critics of the
maximization-of-returns hypothesis as follows: “There is an irresistible
tendency to price on the basis of average total costs for some ‘normal’
level of output. This is the yardstick, the short-cut, that businessmen and
accountants use, and their aim is more to earn satisfactory profits and
play safe than to maximize profits” (op. cit., p. 275). Yet he essentially
abandons this hypothesis, or converts it into a tautology, and in the
process implicitly accepts the test by prediction when he later remarks:
“Full cost and satisfactory profits may continue to be the objectives even
when total costs are shaded to meet competition or exceeded to take
advantage of a sellers’ market” (ibid, p. 284). Where here is the
“irresistible tendency”? What kind of evidence could contradict this
assertion?
26. Sidney S. Alexander, “Issues of Business Cycle Theory Raised by
Mr. Hicks,” American Economic Review, XLI (December, 1951), 872.
34
so far met with dramatic success. If a class of “economic phenomena” appears varied and complex, it is, we must suppose,
because we have no adequate theory to explain them. Known facts
cannot be set on one side; a theory to apply “closely to reality,” on
the other. A theory is the way we perceive “facts,” and we cannot
perceive “facts” without a theory. Any assertion that economic
phenomena are varied and complex denies the tentative state of
knowledge that alone makes scientific activity meaningful; it is in a
class with John Stuart Mill’s justly ridiculed statement that “happily,
there is nothing in the laws of value which remains [1848] for the
present or any future writer to clear up; the theory of the subject is
complete.”27
The confusion between descriptive accuracy and analytical
relevance has led not only to criticisms of economic theory on
largely irrelevant grounds but also to misunderstanding of economic
theory and misdirection of efforts to repair supposed defects. “Ideal
types” in the abstract model developed by economic theorists have
been regarded as strictly descriptive categories intended to
correspond directly and fully to entities- in the real world
independently of the purpose for which the model is being used. The
obvious discrepancies have led to necessarily, unsuccesful attempts
to construct theories on the basis of categories intended to be fully
descriptive.
This tendency’ is perhaps most clearly illustrated by the interpretation given to the concepts of “perfect competition” and
“monopoly” and the development of the theory of “monopolistic” or
“imperfect competition.” Marshall, it is said, assumed “perfect
competition”; perhaps there once was such a thing. But clearly there
is no longer, and we must therefore discard his theories. The reader
will search long and hard – and I predict unsuccessfully – to find in
Marshall any explicit assumption about perfect competition or any
assertion that in a descriptive sense the world is composed of
atomistic firms engaged in perfect competition. Rather, he will find
Marshall saying: “At one extreme are world markets in which
competition acts directly from all parts of the globe; and at the other
those secluded
27. Principles of Political Economy (Ashley ed.; Longmans, Green &
Co., 1929), p. 436.
35
markets in which all direct competition from afar is shut out, though
indirect and transmitted competition may make itself felt even in
these; and about midway between these extremes lie the great
majority of the markets which the economist and the business man
have to study.”28 Marshall took the world as it is; he sought to
construct an “engine” to analyze it, not a photographic reproduction
of it.
In analyzing the world as it is, Marshall constructed the hypothesis
that, for many problems, firms could be grouped into “industries”
such that the similarities among the firms in each group were more
important than the differences among them. These are problems in
which the important element is that a group of firms is affected alike
by some stimulus – a common change in the demand for their
products, say, or in the supply of factors. But this will not do for all
problems: the important element for these ni~ be the differential
effect on particular firms.
The abstract model corresponding to this hypothesis contains two
“ideal” types of firms: atomistically competitive firms, grouped into
industries, and monopolistic firms. A firm is competitive if the
demand curve for its output is infinitely elastic with respect to its
own price for some price and all outputs, given the prices charged by
all other firms; it belongs to an “industry” defined as a group of firms
producing a single “product.” A “product” is defined as a collection
of units that are perfect substitutes to purchasers So the elasticity of
demand for the output of one firm with respect to the price of another
firm in the same industry is infinite for some price and some outputs.
A firm is monopolistic if the demand curve for its output is not
infinitely elastic at some price for all outputs.29 If it is a monopolist,
the firm is the industry.30
As always, the hypothesis as a whole consists not only of this
abstract model and its ideal types but also of a set of rules, mostly
28. Principles, p. 329; see also pp. 35, 100, 341, 347, 375, 546.
29. This ideal type can be divided into two types: the oligopolistic firm,
if the demand curve for its output is infinitely elastic at some price for
some but not all outputs; the monopolistic firm proper, if the demand
curve is nowhere infinitely elastic (except possibly at an output of zero).
30. For the oligopolist of the preceding note an industry can be defined
as a group of firms producing the same product.
36
implicit and suggested by example, for identifying actual firms with
one or the other ideal type and for classifying firms into industries.
The ideal types are not intended to be descriptive; they are designed
to isolate the features that are crucial for a particular problem. Even
if we could estimate directly and accurately the demand curve for a
firm’s product, we could not proceed immediately to classify the firm
as perfectly competitive or monopolistic according as the elasticity of
the demand curve is or is not infinite. No observed demand curve will
ever be precisely horizontal, so the estimated elasticity will always be
finite. The relevant question always is whether the elasticity is
“sufficiently” large to be regarded as infinite, but this is a question
that cannot be answered, once for all, simply in terms of the
numerical value of the elasticity itself, any more than we can say,
once for all, whether an air pressure of 15 pounds per square inch is
“sufficiently” close to zero to use the formula S = 1/2gt2 Similarly,
we cannot compute cross-elasticities of demand, and then classify
firms into industries according as there is a “substantial gap in the
cross-elasticities of demand.” As
Marshall says, “The question where the lines of division between
different commodities [i.e., industries] should be drawn
must be settled by convenience of the particular discussion.”31
Everything depends on the problem; there is no inconsistency in
regarding the same firm as if it were a perfect competitor for
one problem, and a monopolist for another, just as there is none
in regarding the same chalk mark as a Euclidean line for one
problem, a Euclidean surface for a second, and a Euclidean
solid for a third. The size of the elasticity and cross-elasticity of
demand, the number of firms producing physically similar products,
etc., are all relevant because they are or may be among the
variables used to define the correspondence between the ideal and
real entities in a particular problem and to specify the circumstances
under which the theory holds sufficiently well; but they
do not provide, once for all, a classification of firms as competitive or
monopolistic.
An example may help to clarify this point. Suppose the problem is
to determine the effect on retail prices of cigarettes of an
31. Principles, p. 100.
37
increase, expected to be permanent, in the federal cigarette tax. I
venture to predict that broadly correct results will be obtained by
treating cigarette firms as if they were producing an identical
product and were in perfect competition. Of course, in such a case,
“some convention must be made as to the” number of Chesterfield
cigarettes “which are taken as equivalent” to a Marlborough.32
On the other hand, the hypothesis that cigarette firms would
behave as if they were perfectly competitive would have been a
false guide to their reactions to price control in World War II, and
this would doubtless have been recognized before the event. Costs
of the cigarette firms must have risen during the war. Under such
circumstances perfect competitors would have reduced the
quantity offered for sale at the previously existing price. But, at
that price, the wartime rise in the income of the public presumably
increased the quantity demanded. Under conditions of perfect
competition strict adherence to the legal price would therefore
imply not only a “shortage” in the sense that quantity demanded
exceeded quantity supplied but also an absolute decline in the
number of cigarettes produced. The facts contradict this particular
implication: there was reasonably good adherence to maximum
cigarette prices, yet the quantities produced increased
substantially. The common force of increased costs presumably
operated less strongly than the disruptive force of the desire by
each firm to keep its share of the market, to maintain the value
and prestige of its brand name, especially when the excess-profits
tax shifted a large share of the costs of this kind of advertising to
the government. For this problem the cigarette firms cannot be
treated as if they were perfect competitors.
Wheat farming is frequently taken to exemplify perfect competition. Yet, while for some problems it is appropriate to treat
cigarette producers as if they comprised a perfectly competitive
industry, for some it is not appropriate to treat wheat producers as
if they did. For example, it may not be if the problem is the
differential in prices paid by local elevator operators for wheat.
Marshall’s apparatus turned out to be most useful for
problems in which a group of firms is affected by common
stimuli,
32. Quoted parts from ibid.
38
and in which the firms can be treated as if they were perfect
competitors. This is the source of the misconception that Marshall
“assumed” perfect competition in some descriptive sense. It would be
highly desirable to have a more general theory than Marshall’s, one
that would cover at the same time both those cases in which
differentiation of product or fewness of numbers makes an essential
difference and those in which it does not. Such a theory would enable
us to handle problems we now cannot and, in addition, facilitate
determination of the range of circumstances under which the simpler
theory can be regarded as a good enough approximation. To perform
this function, the more general theory must have content and
substance; it must have implications susceptible to empirical
contradiction and of substantive interest and importance.
The theory of imperfect or monopolistic competition developed by
Chamberlin and Robinson is an attempt to construct such a more
general theory.33 Unfortunately, it possesses none of the attributes
that would make it a truly useful general theory. Its contribution has
been limited largely to improving the exposition of the economics of
the individual firm and thereby the derivation of implications of the
Marshallian model, refining, Marshall’s monopoly analysis, and
enriching the vocabulary, available for describing industrial
experience.
The deficiencies of the theory are revealed most clearly in its
treatment of, or inability to treat, problems involving groups of
firms-Marshallian “industries.” So long as it is insisted that,
differentiation of product is essential – and it is the distinguishing
feature of the theory that it does insist on this point – the definition of
an industry in terms of firms producing an identical product cannot
be used. By that definition each firm is a separate industry. Definition
in terms of “close” substitutes or a “substantial” gap in
cross-elasticities evades the issue, introduces fuzziness and
undefinable terms into the abstract model where they have no place,
and serves only to make the theory analytically meaningless – “close”
and “substantial” are in the same category
33. E. H. Chamberlin, The Theory of Monopolistic Competition (6tb
e.d.; Cambridge: Harvard University. Press, 1950); Joan Robinson, The
Economics of Imperfect Competition (London: Macmillan & Co., 1933).
39
as a “small” air pressure. 34
In one connection Chamberlin implicitly defines an industry as a
group of firms having identical cost and demand curves.” But this, too,
is logically meaningless so ” long as differentiation of product is, as
claimed, essential and not to be put aside. What does it mean to say
that the cost and demand curves of a firm producing bulldozers are
identical with those of a firm producing hairpins?36 And if it is
meaningless for bulldozers and hairpins, it is meaningless also for two
brands of toothpaste – so long as it is insisted that the difference
between the two brands is fundamentally important.
The theory of monopolistic competition offers no tools for the
analysis of an industry and so no stopping place between the firm at
one extreme and general equilibrium at the other.37 It is therefore
incompetent to contribute to the analysis of a host of important
problems: the one extreme is too narrow to be of great interest; the
other, too broad to permit meaningful generalizations.38
VI. CONCLUSION
Economics as a positive science is a body of tentatively accepted
generalizations about economic phenomena that can be used to
predict the consequences of changes in circumstances.
34. See R. L. Bishop, “Elasticities, Cross-elasticities, and. Market
Relationships,” American Economic Review, XLII (December, 1952),
779-803, for a recent attempt to construct a rigorous classification of
market relationships along these lines. Despite its ingenuity and
sophistication, the result seems to me thoroughly unsatisfactory. It rests
basically on certain numbers being ‘classified as “large” or “small,” yet
there is no discussion at all of how to decide whether a particular number
is “large” or “small,” as of course there cannot be on a purely abstract
level.
35. Op. cit., p. 82.
36. There always exists a transformation of quantities that will make
either the cost curves or the demand curves identical; this transformation
need not, however, be linear, in which case it will involve different-sized
units of one product at different levels of output. There does not
necessarily exist a transformation that will make both pairs of curves
identical.
37. See Robert Triffin, Monopolistic Competition and General
Equilibrium Theory (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1940), esp.
pp. 188-89.
38. For a detailed critique see George J. Stigler, “Monopolistic
Competition in Retrospect,” in Five Lectures on Economic Problems
(London: Macmillan & Co., 1949), pp. 12-24.
40
Progress in expanding this body of generalizations, strengthening
our confidence in their validity, and improving the accuracy of the
predictions they yield is hindered not only by the limitations of
human ability that impede all search for knowledge but also by
obstacles that are especially important for the social sciences in
general and economics in particular, though by no means peculiar to
them. Familiarity with the subject matter of economics breeds
contempt for special knowledge about it. The importance of its
subject matter to everyday life and to major issues of public policy
impedes objectivity and promotes confusion between scientific
analysis and normative judgment. The necessity of relying on
uncontrolled experience rather than on controlled experiment makes
it difficult to produce dramatic and clear-cut evidence to justify the
acceptance of tentative hypotheses. Reliance on uncontrolled
experience does not affect the fundamental methodological principle
that a hypothesis can be tested only by the conformity of its
implications or predictions with observable phenomena; but it does
render the task of testing hypotheses more difficult and gives greater
scope for confusion about the methodological principles involved.
More than other scientists, social scientists need to be self-conscious
One confusion that has been particularly rife and has done
much damage is confusion about the role of “assumptions” in
economic analysis. A meaningful scientific hypothesis or theory
typically asserts that certain forces are, and other forces are not,
important in understanding a particular class of phenomena.
It is frequently convenient to present such a hypothesis by
stating that the phenomena it is desired to predict behave in
the world of observation as if they occurred in a hypothetical and
highly simplified world containing only the forces that the
hypothesis asserts to be important. In general, there is more
than one way to formulate such a description – more than one
set of “assumptions” in terms of which the theory can be presented.
The choice among such alternative assumptions is made
on the grounds of the resulting economy, clarity, and precision
in presenting the hypothesis; their capacity to bring indirect
evidence to bear on the validity of the hypothesis by suggesting
41
some of its implications that can be readily checked with observation
or by bringing out its connection with other hypotheses dealing with
related phenomena; and similar considerations.
Such a theory cannot be tested by comparing its “assumptions”
directly with “reality,.” Indeed, there is no meaningful way in which
this can be done. Complete “realism” is clearly unattainable, and the
question whether a theory is realistic “enough” can be settled only by
seeing whether it yields predictions that are good enough for the
purpose in hand or that are better than predictions from alternative
theories. Yet the belief that a theory can be tested by the realism of
its assumptions independently of the accuracy of its predictions is
widespread and the source of much of the perennial criticism of
economic theory as unrealistic. Such criticism is largely irrelevant,
and, in consequence, most attempts to reform economic theory that it
has stimulated have been unsuccessful.
The irrelevance of so much criticism of economic theory does not
of course imply that existing economic theory deserves any high
degree of confidence. These criticisms may miss the target yet there
may be a target for criticism. In a trivial sense, of course, there
obviously is. Any theory is necessarily provisional and subject to
change with the advance of knowledge. To go beyond this platitude, it
is necessary to be more specific about the content of “existing
economic theory” and to distinguish among its different branches;
some parts of economic theory clearly deserve more confidence than
others. A comprehensive evaluation of the present state of positive
economics, summary of the evidence bearing on its validity, and
assessment of the relative confidence that each part deserves is clearly
a task for a treatise or a set of treatises, if it be possible at all, not for
a brief paper on methodology.
About all that is possible here is the cursory expression of
personal view. Existing relative price theory, which is designed to
explain the allocation of resources among alternative ends and the
division of the product among the co-operating resources, and which
reached almost its present form in Marshall’s Principles of
Economics, seems to me both extremely fruitful and deserving of
much confidence for the kind of economic system
42
that characterizes Western nations. Despite the appearance of
considerable controversy, this is true equally of existing static, monetary
theory, which is designed to explain the structural or secular level of
absolute prices, aggregate output, and other variables for the economy
as a whole and which has had a form of the quantity theory of money as
its basic core in all of its major variants from David Hume to the
Cambridge School to Irving Fisher to John Maynard Keynes. The
weakest and least satisfactory part of current economic theory seems to
me to be in the field of monetary dynamics, which is concerned with the
process of adaptation of the economy as a whole to changes in conditions and so with short-period fluctuations in aggregate activity. In this
field we do not even have a theory that can appropriately be called “the”
existing theory of monetary dynamics.
Of course, even in relative price and static monetary theory there is
enormous room for extending the scope and improving the accuracy of
existing theory. In particular, undue emphasis on the descriptive realism
of “assumptions” has. contributed to neglect of the critical problem of
determining the limits of validity of the various hypotheses that together
constitute the existing economic theory in these areas. The abstract
models corresponding to these hypotheses have been elaborated in considerable detail and greatly improved in rigor and precision. Descriptive
material on the characteristics of our economic system and its
operations have been amassed on an unprecedented scale, This is all to
the good. But, if we are to use effectively, these abstract models and
this descriptive material, we must have a comparable exploration of the
criteria for determining what abstract model it is best to use for
particular kinds of problems, what entities in the abstract model are to
be identified with what observable entities, and what features of the
problem or of the circumstances have the greatest effect on the accuracy
of the predictions yielded by a particular model or theory.
Progress in positive economics will require not only the testing and
elaboration of existing hypotheses but also the construction of new
hypotheses. On this problem there is little to say on a
43
formal level. The construction of hypotheses is a creative act of
inspiration, intuition, invention; its essence is the vision of something
new in familiar material. The process must be discussed in
psychological, not logical, categories; studied in autobiographies and
biographies, not treatises on scientific method; and promoted by maxim
and example, not syllogism or theorem.
Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District
as ID.”[8] All eight of the Dover school board members
who were up for re-election on November 8, 2005 were
defeated by a set of challengers who opposed the teaching
of intelligent design in a science class. (The ninth member was not up for re-election.) The school board president subsequently stated that the board did not intend to
appeal the ruling.[9]
Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District,
et al. (400 F. Supp. 2d 707, Docket no. 4cv2688) was the
ﬁrst direct challenge brought in the United States federal
courts testing a public school district policy that required
the teaching of intelligent design.[1] In October 2004 the
Dover Area School District changed its biology teaching
curriculum to require that intelligent design be presented
as an alternative to evolution theory, and that Of Pandas
and People was to be used as a reference book.[2] The
plaintiﬀs successfully argued that intelligent design is a
form of creationism, and that the school board policy violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment
to the United States Constitution. The judge’s decision
sparked considerable response from both supporters and
critics.
1 Background
From 2002 William (Bill) Buckingham and Alan Bonsell,
members of the Dover Area School District Board of Education who were young earth creationists, had made various statements supporting teaching creationism alongside evolution. At a board meeting on June 7, 2004,
Buckingham mentioned creationism and raised objections to the proposed use of the textbook Biology written
by Kenneth R. Miller and Joseph S. Levine, describing
it as “laced with Darwinism” and saying it was “inexcusable to have a book that says man descended from apes
with nothing to counterbalance it.”[10] This story made
the York newspapers, and Buckingham was telephoned
by Discovery Institute staﬀ attorney Seth Cooper, whose
tasks included “communicating with legislators, school
board members, teachers, parents and students” to “address the topic of ID in a scientiﬁcally and educationally
responsible way” in public schools. He later stated that he
made the call to “steer the Dover Board away from trying to include intelligent design in the classroom or from
trying to insert creationism into its cirriculum [sic]”, an
account Buckingham has disputed. Cooper sent the book
and DVD of Icons of Evolution to Buckingham, who required the Dover High School science teachers to watch
the DVD. They did not take up the opportunity to use
it in their classes. Cooper advised that the Discovery
Institute was not oﬀering legal advice, and soon afterwards Buckingham contacted Richard Thompson of the
Thomas More Law Center, who agreed to represent the
Dover Board, and recommended the book Of Pandas and
People.[11] On October 18, 2004, the school board voted
6–3 resolving that there were to be lectures on the subject,
with Pandas as a reference book, and that the following
statement was to be added to their biology curriculum:[2]
Eleven parents of students in Dover, York County, Pennsylvania, near the city of York, sued the Dover Area
School District over the school board requirement that a
statement presenting intelligent design as “an explanation
of the origin of life that diﬀers from Darwin’s view” was
to be read aloud in ninth-grade science classes when evolution was taught.[3] The plaintiﬀs were represented by
the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Americans
United for Separation of Church and State (AU) and
Pepper Hamilton LLP. The National Center for Science
Education (NCSE) acted as consultants for the plaintiﬀs.
The defendants were represented by the Thomas More
Law Center (TMLC). The Foundation for Thought and
Ethics, publisher of Of Pandas and People, a textbook advocating intelligent design and whose prominence within
the trial was such that it is sometimes referred to as the
Dover Panda Trial,[4][5] tried to join the lawsuit late as a
defendant but was denied for multiple reasons.[6]
The suit was brought in the U.S. District Court for the
Middle District of Pennsylvania seeking declaratory and
injunctive relief. Since it sought an equitable remedy, by
the Seventh Amendment, right to a jury trial did not apply. It was tried in a bench trial from September 26, 2005
to November 4, 2005, before Judge John E. Jones III, a
Republican appointed in 2002 by George W. Bush.[7] On
December 20, 2005, Jones issued his 139-page ﬁndings
of fact and decision ruling that the Dover mandate requiring the statement to be read in class was unconstitutional.
The ruling concluded that intelligent design is not science,
and permanently barred the board from “maintaining the
ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School
District, from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientiﬁc theory of evolution, and from requiring
teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known
Students will be made aware of the
gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other
theories of evolution including, but not limited
to, intelligent design. Note: Origins of life is
not taught.
1
2
1
On November 19, 2004, the Dover Area School District
issued a press release stating that, commencing in January
2005, teachers would be required to read the following
statement to students in the ninth-grade biology class at
Dover High School:
of evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.
Because Darwin’s Theory is a theory, it is
still being tested as new evidence is discovered.
The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory
exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is
deﬁned as a well-tested explanation that uniﬁes
Intelligent design is an explanation of the
origin of life that diﬀers from Darwin’s view.
The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is
available for students to see if they would like
to explore this view in an eﬀort to gain an understanding of what intelligent design actually
involves.
As is true with any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school
leaves the discussion of the origins of life to
individual students and their families. As a
standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proﬁciency on standards-based assessments.
—(page 1 of decision)
The three school board members who voted against it resigned in protest, and science teachers in the district refused to read the statement to their ninth-grade students,
citing the Pennsylvania state code 235.10(2), which requires that “The professional educator may not … Knowingly and intentionally misrepresent subject matter or
The school board’s statement asserting that there are
“gaps” in evolution and that it speciﬁcally is a theory “not
a fact” singled out evolution, implying it is just a hunch,
even though this is not the actual meaning of the term
“scientiﬁc theory”. The reference to Of Pandas and People and presentation of intelligent design as an alternative
“explanation of the origins of life” presented it as though
it were a scientiﬁc explanation, in contrast to the way that
evolution was described. Encouraging students to “keep
an open mind” about alternatives without oﬀering an alternative scientiﬁc explanation implied an invitation to
meditate on a religious view, endorsing the religious view
a similar way to the disclaimer found to be unconstitutional in the Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish Board of Education case. The school board claimed the statement does
not teach intelligent design and simply makes students
aware of its existence as an alternative to evolution, but no
BACKGROUND
of the presentation, the administrators stated that “there
will be no other discussion of the issue and your teachers
will not answer questions on the issue”, giving intelligent
design a position not applied to scientiﬁc topics.[12] The
board denied that intelligent design was “religion in disguise,” despite being represented in court by the Thomas
More Law Center, a conservative Christian not-for-proﬁt
law center that uses litigation to promote “the religious
freedom of Christians and time-honored family values”.
Its stated purpose is “…to be the sword and shield for people of faith”.
The American Civil Liberties Union ﬁled suit on December 14, 2004 on behalf of eleven parents from the Dover
school district, and sought a law ﬁrm willing to take on
the case at the risk of not being paid if the case was lost.
Eric Rothschild, a partner at Pepper Hamilton LLP and
a member of the National Center for Science Education
legal advisory council, was quick to agree to take the case
on such a contingency basis.
The Discovery Institute’s John West said the case displayed the ACLU’s “Orwellian” eﬀort to stiﬂe scientiﬁc discourse and objected to the issue being decided
in court. “It’s a disturbing prospect that the outcome of
this lawsuit could be that the court will try to tell scientists what is legitimate scientiﬁc inquiry and what is not,”
West said. “That is a ﬂagrant assault on free speech.”
Opponents, represented by the American Association for
the Advancement of Science and the National Association of Biology Teachers, contended that his statement is
not just ironic, but hypocritical, as the Discovery Institute opposes methodological naturalism, the basic principle that limits science to natural phenomena and natural
causes without assuming the existence or non-existence
of the supernatural, which by deﬁnition is beyond natural explanation.
Despite its earlier involvement, the Discovery Institute
was concerned that this would be a test case and that the
defendants had earlier displayed their religious motivations. This tension led to disagreements with the Thomas
More Law Center and the withdrawal of three Discovery Institute fellows as defense experts prior to their
depositions – William A. Dembski, Stephen C. Meyer
and John Angus Campbell. This was purportedly because the Thomas More Law Center refused to allow
these witnesses to have their own attorneys present during deposition,[13] but Discovery Institute director Bruce
(as well as Behe and Minnich, who testiﬁed anyway).[14]
In May 2005, the publisher of Of Pandas and People, the
Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE), ﬁled a motion
seeking to intervene in the case. FTE argued that a ruling that intelligent design was religious would have severe
ﬁnancial consequences, citing possible losses of approximately half a million dollars. By intervening, FTE would
have become a co-defendant with the Dover Area School
3
Board, and able to bring its own lawyers and expert witnesses to the case. FTE’s president Jon Buell implied that
if allowed to intervene, FTE would bring Dembski and
Meyer as expert witnesses. In his decision on the motion,
Jones ruled that FTE was not entitled to intervene in the
case because its motion to intervene was not timely, describing FTE’s reasons for not trying to become involved
earlier as “both unavailing and disingenuous.” Jones also
held that FTE had failed to demonstrate that it has “a signiﬁcantly protectable interest in the litigation warranting
intervention as a party” and that its interests would not be
In the November 2005 elections, none of the members
of the Dover School Board who voted for the intelligent
design policy were re-elected, and a new school board,
which rejected the policy, took oﬃce. This eﬀectively
precluded the possibility of an appeal to a higher court.
2
• Alan Bonsell
• Sheila Harkins
• Heather Geesey
• Jane Cleaver (resigned October 4, 2004)
• Angie Ziegler-Yingling (resigned December 6, 2004)
Members who voted against it:
• Noel Wenrich (announced his resignation
October 4, 2004; last day of service was
October 31, 2004; moved out of the district)
• Carol Brown (resigned October 18, 2004
in protest)
• Jeﬀ Brown (resigned October 18, 2004 in
protest)
Litigants
The litigants of this trial were as follows:
3 Trial
The trial began on September 26, 2005.
2.1
Plaintiﬀs
The plaintiﬀs were all parents of students enrolled in the
Dover Area School district.
• Tammy Kitzmiller
• Bryan Rehm
• Christy Rehm
• Deborah Fenimore
• Joel Lieb
• Steven Stough
• Beth Eveland
• Cynthia Sneath
• Julie Smith
3.1 Opening statements
3.1.1 Plaintiﬀs
Eric Rothschild gave the opening statement for the plaintiﬀs. He said that the plaintiﬀs would be able to provide
many examples of school board members wishing to balance the teaching of evolution with creationism. He attacked prior defense claims that it was a minor aﬀair by
saying that there is no such thing as a “little” constitutional
violation. He also provided the deﬁnition of creationism
given by an early draft of Pandas:
Creation is the theory that various forms of
life began abruptly, with their distinctive features already intact: Fish with ﬁns and scales,
birds with feathers and wings, mammals with
fur and mammary glands.
• Aralene “Barrie” D. Callahan
• Frederick B. Callahan
2.2
Defendants
• Dover Area School District
• Dover Area School District Board of Directors
Members who voted for the statement:
• Bill Buckingham (resigned August 2005
due to health concerns)[15]
He compared this with what was eventually published:
Intelligent design means that various forms
of life began abruptly through an intelligent
agency, with their distinctive features already
intact: Fish with ﬁns and scales, birds with
feathers, beaks and wings, et cetera.
(The deﬁnitions had come up in an earlier hearing in a July
14 pre-trial hearing.[16] ) He also argued that intelligent
design was not science in its infancy, but rather was not
science at all.
4
3 TRIAL
3.1.2
Defense
• Bryan Rehm was the last witness of the day. He
was a former physics teacher at Dover and a parent to children attending school at the Dover Area
School District. Both he and his wife were plaintiﬀs and taught Vacation Bible School. Rehm testiﬁed that Alan Bonsell, then-chairman of the board’s
a video on intelligent design titled Icons of Evolution. Teachers had expressed concern that Bonsell
did not believe in evolution and wished to see classroom discussions of evolution balanced “ﬁfty-ﬁfty”
with creationism.
Patrick Gillen gave the opening arguments for the defense. He started by saying that the goal of the board
and its supporters was to enhance science education. He
argued that the policy was a “modest change.” He distanced the policy from alleged statements made by then
board member William Buckingham which the plaintiﬀs
argued showed clear religious intent: “The board listened
to the science faculty more than it listened to Bill Buckingham.” He argued that the policy did not have a “religious agenda.” Gillen mentioned that board member Alan
“aware of intelligent design theory, and that 300 or so sci- September 28
entists had signed a statement indicating that biologists
• Robert T. Pennock is a philosopher now working on
the Avida digital organism project at Michigan State
in creationism.”
University where he is an associate professor. He
is the author of many books and articles critical of
intelligent design. He testiﬁed as an expert witness.
3.2
3.2.1
Witnesses
Witnesses for the plaintiﬀs
September 27, 2005
• Julie Smith is a parent and plaintiﬀ. She made only
one point: that the policy created a hostile atmosphere for her daughter, Katherine. She said her
daughter was harassed for her Catholic background,
being told that she is an atheist since she accepted
evolution.
• Kenneth R. Miller, a biology professor from Brown
• Christy Rehm testiﬁed as a parent and plaintiﬀ.
University and noted author and commentator opposed to the intelligent design and creationist move• Beth Eveland testiﬁed.
ments, was the ﬁrst witness. He testiﬁed as an expert
• Frederick Callahan testiﬁed.
witness that “Intelligent design is not a testable theory and as such is not generally accepted by the
scientiﬁc community.” He said that the idea of in- September 29
telligent design was not subject to falsiﬁcation, and
• Carol Brown testiﬁed.
demonstrated that many claims made by intelligentdesign advocates against evolution were invalid.
• Jeﬀrey Brown testiﬁed.
Miller gave a two-fold response. 1) “[I]t falsely undermines the scientiﬁc status of evolutionary theory September 30
and gives students a false understanding of what the• John Haught testiﬁed. He is a Roman Catholic
ory actually means.” And 2) “as a person of faith
theologian and the Landegger Distinguished Prowho was blessed with two daughters, who raised
fessor of Theology at Georgetown University, with
both of my daughters in the church, and had they
teaching and research interests focused on issues in
been given an education in which they were explicscience and religion, cosmology and theology, and
itly or implicitly forced to choose between God and
religion and ecology.[17]
science, I would have been furious, because I want
my children to keep their religious faith.”
October 5–6
• Tammy Kitzmiller testiﬁed as a fact witness. She
• Barbara Forrest testiﬁed as an expert witness for
was the lead plaintiﬀ and a parent of a child in the
the plaintiﬀ[18] and also furnished the court with
Dover school system.
a written expert witness report[19] and a supple• Aralene “Barrie” D. Callahan, a Dover parent, was
mental report.[20] Forrest is a professor in philosa plaintiﬀ and was for ten years a board member of
ophy in the Department of History and Political
the Dover Area School District. She testiﬁed that
Science at Southeastern Louisiana University. She
and scientist Paul R. Gross co-authored the book
Alan Bonsell, a board member, argued in a board
Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelliretreat in Spring 2003 that if evolution were taught
gent Design (Oxford University Press 2004).
then creationism should also be taught.
3.2
Witnesses
Before her testimony the TMLC ﬁled a motion to have
her excluded as an expert witness. In that motion they
characterized her as “little more than a conspiracy theorist and a web-surﬁng, ‘cyber-stalker’ of the Discovery
Institute.”[21][22] Jones denied the motion.
5
As a primary witness for the defense, Behe was asked
to support the idea that intelligent design was legitimate
science. Behe’s critics have pointed to a number of key
exchanges under cross examination, where he conceded
that “there are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system
occurred”.[26] In response to a question about astrology
he explained: “Under my deﬁnition, a scientiﬁc theory is
a proposed explanation which focuses or points to physical, observable data and logical inferences. There are
many things throughout the history of science which we
now think to be incorrect which nonetheless… would ﬁt
that deﬁnition. Yes, astrology is in fact one, and so is
the ether theory of the propagation of light, and… many
other theories as well”.[27]
Forrest gave testimony on the history of the intelligent design movement, citing writings of prominent ﬁgures (such as Discovery Institute’s “Wedge Document”,
Phillip Johnson’s “How the Evolution Debate Can be
Won”, and of William Dembski). She also testiﬁed that
ID was merely another name for the creationism movement, attempting to present a religious proposition as a
scientiﬁc viewpoint. She stated that Johnson “regards
evolution as a threat to the Bible in its entirety and as a
threat to the moral fabric of American culture,” and that
one of the goals of his movement is to unify the religious
world. She added that there is “no way to reconcile […]
at all” the Dover school board newsletter statement that His simulation modelling of evolution with David Snoke
intelligent design is a scientiﬁc theory with Paul Nelson’s described in a 2004 paper had been listed by the
statements in the interview “The Measure of Design”.
Discovery Institute amongst claimed “Peer-Reviewed &
Supporting the TheForrest noted that she was unaware of any evidence that Peer-Edited Scientiﬁc Publications
[28]
ory
of
Intelligent
Design”,
but
under
oath he accepted
the members of the School board had seen the “Wedge
that
it
showed
that
the
biochemical
systems
it described
Document” before the lawsuit.
could evolve within 20,000 years, even if the parameters
Several days before her scheduled testimony, the Discov- of the simulation were rigged to make that outcome as
ery Institute publicly ridiculed her on their website.[23][24] unlikely as possible.[29][30]
October 6
For more details on this topic, see Michael Behe § Dover
testimony.
• Jennifer Miller testiﬁed.
• Bertha Spahr testiﬁed.
October 12
• Brian Alters testiﬁed.
• Cynthia Sneath testiﬁed.
October 14
• Steven Stough testiﬁed.
• Joel Lieb testiﬁed.
3.2.2
Witnesses for the defense
October 17–19
October 20–21
• Richard Nilsen testiﬁed.
October 21, 28, November 3
• Michael Richard Baksa testiﬁed. He was the Dover
Area School District Assistant Superintendent. In
an email response to a complaint by social studies teacher Brad Neal, Baksa referred to The Myth
of Separation by David Barton, a book Baksa had
received from Superintendent Richard Nilsen, who
The book calls separation of church and state “absurd.” Baksa also discussed attempted changes to
the statement. Teachers suggested adding “Darwin’s
theory of evolution continues to be the dominant
scientiﬁc explanation of the origin of species,” but
this was eliminated by the board. The teachers also
recommended altering it to read “Because Darwin’s
theory is a theory, there is a signiﬁcant amount of
evidence that supports the theory, although it is still
being tested as new evidence is discovered.” Citing
his belief the board would reject this, Baksa eliminated the “signiﬁcant amount of evidence.”
• Michael Behe was the ﬁrst witness for the defense.
Behe is professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, and a leading intelligent design
proponent who coined the term irreducible complexity and set out the idea in his book Darwin’s
Black Box.[25]
October 24
6
3 TRIAL
• Dr. Steve Fuller is a professor of sociology at
the University of Warwick in England, and author
of books on social epistemology and science and
technology studies.[31] His testimony essentially attempted a qualiﬁed defense of the scientiﬁc status of intelligent design, arguing that its history
can be traced back to Newton and should include
such luminaries of modern biology as Linnaeus and
Mendel. He also stressed a distinction from the philosophy of science between the “context of discovery” (what motivates a scientist) and the “context of
justiﬁcation” (how the scientist’s theory is judged)
in order to mitigate the undeniably religious origins
of intelligent design. Fuller memorably called for an
“aﬃrmative action” program for intelligent design,
which did not win much favor with Jones in his ﬁnal decision. Fuller’s testimony was cited by lawyers
for both the plaintiﬀs and the defense in their closing
statements.
3.2.3
Witnesses for the plaintiﬀs (called out-ofturn)
October 27
• William Buckingham testiﬁed and was ruled a
hostile witness.
October 28
• Heidi Bernhard-Bubb testiﬁed.
3.2.4
Witnesses for the defense
October 28
• Heather Geesey testiﬁed.
October 31
• Jane Cleaver testiﬁed.
• Alan Bonsell testiﬁed. His testimony initially included a claim that he did not know where the money
had been raised to donate sixty copies of Of Pandas and People to the school’s library. On hearing
that the money had been raised in William Buckingham’s church, and directed through Bonsell’s father so that it might be donated anonymously, Jones
elected to take over the examination of Bonsell himself, questioning him for about ten minutes.
November 3
• Scott Minnich testiﬁed.
3.3 Closing arguments
Closing arguments were made on November 4, 2005.
Upon completion of the closing arguments, Gillen asked
Jones, “By my reckoning, this is the 40th day since the
trial began and tonight will be the 40th night, and I would
like to know if you did that on purpose.” Jones responded,
“Mr. Gillen, that is an interesting coincidence, but it
was not by design.”[32] This humorous exchange provided
the title for Matthew Chapman’s book about the trial, 40
Days and 40 Nights.[33]
3.4 Decision
On December 20, 2005, Jones found for the plaintiﬀs and
issued a 139 page decision, in which he wrote:
• For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the religious nature of ID [intelligent design] would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or
child. (page 24)
• A signiﬁcant aspect of the IDM [intelligent design movement] is that despite
Defendants’ protestations to the contrary,
it describes ID as a religious argument.
In that vein, the writings of leading ID
proponents reveal that the designer postulated by their argument is the God of
Christianity. (page 26)
• The evidence at trial demonstrates that ID
is nothing less than the progeny of creationism. (page 31)
• The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a
mere re-labeling of creationism, and not
a scientiﬁc theory. (page 43)
• Throughout the trial and in various submissions to the Court, Defendants vigorously argue that the reading of the
statement is not ‘teaching’ ID but instead is merely ‘making students aware
of it.’ In fact, one consistency among
the Dover School Board members’ testimony, which was marked by selective
memories and outright lies under oath, as
will be discussed in more detail below, is
that they did not think they needed to be
knowledgeable about ID because it was
not being taught to the students. We disagree. …. an educator reading the disclaimer is engaged in teaching, even if
it is colossally bad teaching. …. Defendants’ argument is a red herring because
the Establishment Clause forbids not just
3.4
Decision
7
‘teaching’ religion, but any governmental
action that endorses or has the primary
purpose or eﬀect of advancing religion.
(footnote 7 on page 46)
• After a searching review of the record
and applicable caselaw, we ﬁnd that while
ID arguments may be true, a proposition
on which the Court takes no position, ID
is not science. We ﬁnd that ID fails on
three diﬀerent levels, any one of which
is suﬃcient to preclude a determination
that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of
science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument
of irreducible complexity, central to ID,
employs the same ﬂawed and illogical
contrived dualism that doomed creation
science in the 1980s; and (3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientiﬁc community. …It is
additionally important to note that ID has
failed to gain acceptance in the scientiﬁc
community, it has not generated peerreviewed publications, nor has it been the
subject of testing and research. Expert
testimony reveals that since the scientiﬁc
revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries,
science has been limited to the search for
natural causes to explain natural phenomena. (page 64) [for “contrived dualism”,
see false dilemma.]
• [T]he one textbook [Pandas] to which the
Dover ID Policy directs students contains
outdated concepts and ﬂawed science, as
recognized by even the defense experts in
this case. (pages 86–87)
• ID’s backers have sought to avoid the scientiﬁc scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID
itself, should be taught in science class.
This tactic is at best disingenuous, and
at worst a canard. The goal of the IDM
is not to encourage critical thought, but
to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID. (page
89)
• Accordingly, we ﬁnd that the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount to
a pretext for the Board’s real purpose,
which was to promote religion in the public school classroom, in violation of the
Establishment Clause. (page 132)
In his Conclusion he wrote:
Judge John E. Jones III issued the decision in the case
• The proper application of both the
endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts
of this case makes it abundantly clear that
the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science.
We have concluded that it is not, and
moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself
from its creationist, and thus religious,
antecedents. […]
• The citizens of the Dover area were
poorly served by the members of the
Board who voted for the ID Policy. It
is ironic that several of these individuals,
who so staunchly and proudly touted their
religious convictions in public, would
time and again lie to cover their tracks
and disguise the real purpose behind the
ID Policy. With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates
of ID have bona ﬁde and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should
continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today
is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID
as an alternative to evolution in a public
school science classroom.
8
4
7
Responses
ANALYSIS AND CRITICISM
would show that they were entitled to more than \$2 million, but were going to accept less than half that amount
Jones anticipated that his ruling would be criticized, say- in recognition of the small size of the school district, and
because the school board that voted for the policy had
ing in his decision t…