How Hipparchus was smarter than Samuelson

Paul Cockshott

Nowadays the phrase ‘epicycle theory’  term of condescension. It refers to an Ancient Greek theory of Lunar and planetary motion, which was subsequently replaced by  Kepler’s simpler model.

In retrospect, the epicyclic theory is seen as a classic example of baroque complexity in science, the result of making ad hoc additions to a basic model in order to accommodate unforgiving observation. But in this short paper, I will argue that epicycle theory was a veritable model of science compared to neoclassical economics!

Figure 1.  Greek astronomer Hipparchus invented epicycle theory.

The epicycle theory was an early scientific theory. It made pretty exact predictions and, as I will show, it was potentially falsifiable. In contrast, the neo-classical value theory is far more baroque, makes only vague predictions and is unfalsifiable by empirical data.