Speaking of infinite variables, complex systems, nonlinear behavior, and human freedom, there is a relevant essay by Isaiah Berlin called The Concept of Scientific History. I haven't actually finished it, but he begins with a discussion of past attempts to treat history as a natural science, an enterprise which can succeed neither in practice nor in principle. Why is that?
Well, history deals with what we call "facts," but there are no historical laws from which these facts can be deduced, nor any strict inductive method for putting them together.
It seems that imagination is required at both ends, both in identifying and in synthesizing the historical facts into "history." But we all know that imagination easily veers into fantasy, or hordes of tenured revisionists would be out of business.
It is as if there is a kind of rupture in epistemology above physics and biology. Physics, of course, is the paradigmatic science, in that it advances not just by observation but by deductions which extend the reach of its powerful and coherent system. The whole existentialada is governed by a few laws with staggering implications.
But no one can do this with history except for Marxists and other progressives. Paul Krugman, for example, has it all figured out. As with physics, he has a powerful logico-deductive system that provides immediate answers to any historo-political question. In fact, Krugman's system is insanely powerful.
For example, why do conservatives believe what they believe? Because they -- we -- are racist. Political science is so easy, even a Nobel laureate can do it!
Krugman begins with the principle of racism, from which "facts" on the ground are then deduced. Unlike a sane person, he does not begin with the facts, i.e., with any actual racist. Indeed, he even says "there’s no evidence that Mr. Ryan is personally a racist," but that doesn't matter. There was also no evidence of, say, the theory of relativity. Rather, it was initially deduced and only observed some two decades later.
Krugman implies that Charles Murray is a racist for simply writing of the well documented differences in IQ among different racial groups. If Murray is a racist, then so too is his own employer (two newspapers in one!). Which, in all fairness -- the leftist kind -- makes Krugman a vile racist as well. Hey, he makes the rules.
Krugman acknowledges that he is working from deduction in claiming that "race is the Rosetta Stone that makes sense of many otherwise incomprehensible aspects of U.S. politics."
Or in other words, any time Krugman is confronted with an idea he doesn't understand, he submits it to his logico-deductive racial system, which promptly and dispassionately announces "Mystery solved." Simple as. Like Chris Matthews, minus the spittle.
By the way, it is not Krugman who is being simplistic and reductionist. Rather, it is those of us with different ideas. His system assures him that people with different policy preferences only hold them because racism is "all that [they've] got." We are intellectually and spiritually impoverished, not Krugman.
History is complex and change is hard. Is it any wonder that progressives such as Krugman cling so bitterly to simplicity, stasis, and slander? That's pretty much all they've got.
Kind of like Obama, who constantly confuses "the ideas in his head with reality. It is not clear if he knows the difference." True, but at least he's in good company with fellow Nobelists such as Krugman, Carter, Arafat, and Gore.
Nevertheless, "ultimately, fantasy must yield to reality, falsehood to truth, superstition to science" (the Derb).