This question inspired by this question, which has several close votes.

Economics is a "social" science. But it is considered a "science" by the Nobel Prize Committee. Moreover, the question is about the economics version of the Cartesian co-ordinate system, that is a mathematical construct.

Can at least some economics questions be asked on this site, at least if they are math or science related?

  1. Yes, Economics is a science and is therefore on topic here. But we should not be using the Nobel Committee's definition of science. First, because Economics isn't even a "real" Nobel. Second, because there is no Nobel in Mathematics (or Geology, or Astronomy, or Psychology...).
  2. Conventions are not inherently part of the history of the field. Asking why Economists draw their graphs backwards is like asking why nuclear physicists use units like MeV/c^2, when the SI unit for that quantity is kg. For that matter, it's also like asking why scientists prefer SI units to English units.
  3. But conventions do have history themselves. Questions about the history of a given convention should be on topic here.

I find that question currently off topic because it doesn't sufficiently specify that it's looking for the historical origins of that convention. Contrast that with Why is American and French notation different for open intervals (x, y) vs. ]x, y[? which specifically asks, "How did this notational divergence appear?" In my opinion, the Economics question doesn't really need very much editing to make it on topic.


My feeling is that all "soft" sciences should be allowed on this site.

As a hard scientist myself, I understand the reasoning to label soft sciences as unscientific. By the standards of hard sciences, they're hardly rigorous. I know that in my everyday speech, if I used the term "science", it would basically never refer to these areas.

On the other hand, if you look at modern day research in social sciences, it is quite a bit more rigorous than e.g. 12th century chemistry research. And perhaps in 50 or 100 years, we may have a far better understanding of cognitive science as computational neural models become increasingly sophisticated. Saying that e.g. economics or psychology isn't a science right now is ignoring almost the entirety of history (the focus of this site) where chemistry, biology, and physics wouldn't meet today's scientific standards.

If we're going to start trying to define what does/doesn't count as science, we're opening up the door to all sorts of challenges of scientific merit that have no place here. Just from my own field of physics, I've heard (reputable) scientists accuse a number of topics of being "unscientific", including high-temperature superconductivity, loop quantum gravity, string theory, inflationary cosmology, supersymmetric phenomenology, stellar evolution models, all of soft condensed matter research, exoplanet astronomy, and all numerical simulations. I have my own opinions on those, but I don't think this is the place to debate which of them is "science" (or even which is "good science"). We should be allowed to ask and answer questions about the history of all of these things. There's really no difference between that and economics or psychology.

Hence, this is the wrong way to define "History of Science" for the purposes of this site. We're looking at the current state of knowledge, determining what aspects count as "science", and then looking at their history. The intermediate step of defining what counts as science is both contentious and unnecessary, and risks casting out entire fields. There are already active professional historians of science, who publish in journals specializing on history of science. We can empirically define "History of Science" to be the subfield of history which is studied by historians of science, avoiding the need to define what is/isn't "valid" science almost completely.

And based on that, yes, soft/social sciences including economics should be included here. But I don't think we're going to be swamped by questions about the Oedipus Complex or Mercantilism. If anything, I suspect we'll have trouble getting anyone who wants to ask about these topics (given our current state of affairs), but if someone does, I don't think we should kick them out if they have a good question.

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    $\begingroup$ In my opinion, science, in the broadest meaning, is everything that increase your own knowledge and human knowledge. $\endgroup$ – Ooker Nov 1 '14 at 10:26

Economic theory and practice has its basis in the application of mostly mathematical ideas, and in turn, is a great driver of new innovations in mathematics and science. I believe that if the question is focused on the mathematical (and/or scientific) basis, then these would be okay and on topic.


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