Experiments in Economics ... (should we trust the dismal scientists in white coats?)
Is the rapid growth of experimental research in economics evidence of a new scientific spirit at work or merely fresh evidence of a misplaced desire to ape the methods of natural sciences? It is often argued that economic experiments are artificial in some sense which tends to render the results problematic or uninteresting. In the early part of this paper I argue that this artificiality critique does not provide a convincing philosophical objection to experimentation in economics. Later sections of the paper argue that methodological discourse in relation to experiments has become somewhat polarized: experimentalists have promoted a position which seeks to defuse objections to experiments; theorists have taken up positions which insulate theory from experimental challenge. I argue that these strategies are overly defensive and tend to stifle rather than promote the goals of economic enquiry.
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