The econophysics of religion

Other social scientists do not like when economists venture into their turf and challenge established methodology. We economists, of course, welcome these instances of Economics imperialism because we believe our methods are superior. But other scientists also venture into Economics, and the most brazen are the physicists. They created a new field, Econophysics, that has been met with bewilderment or amusement by economists, including myself (Exhibits A and B). Economics and Econophysics largely ignore each other. Here is now the paper that will be with upmost bewilderment in social sciences, Econophysics applied to religion.

Marcel Ausloos studies a religious sect, the Antoinists, over 80 years. Lacking information about membership, attention is turned towards income and expense reports. Ausloos tries to find patterns and regimes in the data in order to understand the growth and decay of the cult. While there is some discussion of GDP and demographics, the exercise is all about fitting the evolution of expenses with a mixture of geometric growth and a sine wave in three different regimes. Why is not clear. And I also do not think the data has been adjusted for inflation. A really bizarre study, I doubt scholars in religion will learn much from it, and economists certainly nothing except to view this field even more with suspicion.

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