John DiNardo against Freakonomics

Here is John DiNardo’s review of Freakonomics, and here, and here are all three reviews he has written; one version was just published in the Journal of Economic Literature.  These reviews struck me as grumpy and unfair, ultimately citing few contrary facts and boiling down to the complaint that the authors have not disproven all competing theories, or that the authors do not have a complete account of what a good explanation would look like.  Three separate reviews of one book?  And a popular book at that?  What is going on?  DiNardo is not some guy in his pajamas, rather he is a tenured professor at the University of Michigan with presumably a high opportunity cost.  I am reminded of Einstein’s rejoinder.  Upon being presented with a book of essays called something like "The critics against Einstein" (that is a paraphrase) he replied with something like "If they were right, one would have been enough."  The point is not that Freakonomics is infallible (on most particular issues I genuinely do not know exactly how robust their results are and to know would take a good bit of study), but rather that factual criticism on a single point is usually the best way to make critical progress.  Now I would like to read a philosophy of science critique of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.


Comments for this post are closed