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(1) Is economics a science?
One of the marks of a science is the use of a scientific method and the ability to establish hypotheses and make predictions which can then be tested with data and where the results are repeatable by others. Unlike some natural scientists and in a way similar to what happens in other social sciences, it is difficult for economists to conduct formal experiments due to moral and practical issues involved with human subjects. Experimentation, however, has been conducted in a number of applied fields in economics: this includes the sub-fields of experimental economics and consumer behavior, focused on experimentation using human subjects; and the sub-field of econometrics, focused on testing hypotheses when data are not generated via controlled experimentation.
The status of social sciences as an empirical science has been a matter of debate in the 20th century, see Positivism dispute.. Unlike the natural sciences, economics yields no natural laws or universal constants due to its reliance on non-physical arguments, so this has led some critics, like Dick Richardson, Ph.D. - Professor of Integrative Biology at the University of Texas at Austin -, to argue economics is not a science. In general, economists reply that while this aspect presents serious difficulties, they do in fact test their hypotheses using statistical methods such as econometrics and data generated in the real world. The field of experimental economics has seen efforts to test at least some predictions of economic theories in a simulated laboratory setting – an endeavor which earned Vernon Smith the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in 2002