Evolution for Everyone

Lin’s recipe for success (see E&E VII) might seem obvious in retrospect, but it is hard to categorize as liberal, conservative, or libertarian as these terms are used in current American political life.

On one hand, the need for local autonomy (ingredient 6) gives Lin’s recipe a conservative and libertarian feel. Big government shouldn’t meddle in the affairs of local groups. Regulations formulated by the experts in Washington are part of the problem.

On the other hand, it is groups, not individuals, that must have autonomy. Regulation is paramount within the group. Ingredients 1-6 are all about establishing and enforcing norms agreed upon by consensus. The idea that individuals should be free to do whatever they damn well please is a recipe for disaster. The small group is the primary adaptive unit in Lin’s framework.

Ingredients 7 and 8 require government involvement in a more positive sense. In any particular common use situation, the ingredients may not automatically exist and therefore must be created. Regulation of groundwater use required gathering information about the groundwater that could only be provided by government agencies. Litigation was sometimes required to resolve conflicts, especially at the beginning when group boundaries (ingredient 1) and rules of conduct (ingredient 2) were being formed. Groups must interact with other groups in a large-scale multi-cellular society, requiring regulations at each level comparable to the regulation of individuals within each cell. In short, there is a role for large-scale social organization as long as it facilitates rather than interfering with the ingredients at a smaller scale.

This blend of conservative and liberal principles can potentially provide a middle ground for productive political discourse. Regardless of how they are labeled, the eight ingredients provide a pragmatic “how to” guide for accomplishing shared objectives in all walks of life. In addition, they emerge seamlessly from our basic scientific understanding of human genetic and cultural evolution and from fundamental evolutionary principles such as the distinction between proximate and ultimate causation, as I will elaborate in the next two installments.

Comments

  1. #1 Peter G Kinnon
    March 24, 2010

    Hello David

    In my recent book “Unusual Perspectives” I propose a model in which continued evolutionary pressures will soon outstrip our already limited control of the way that society operates.

    While, in the short term, the remedies that you suggest match my own recommendations, there is considerable evidence (drawn from a diversity of disciplines but especially chemistry), that within decades our destinies will no longer be significantly within our control.

    The electronic edition of “Unusual Perspectives” can be downloaded freely from the eponymous website.

  2. #2 abb3w
    March 25, 2010

    David Sloan Wilson: On the other hand, it is groups, not individuals, that must have autonomy.

    Individuals are one-element groups. The autonomy is for the formation and maintenance of groups.

    David Sloan Wilson: Regardless of how they are labeled, the eight ingredients provide a pragmatic “how to” guide for accomplishing shared objectives in all walks of life.

    And some guidance for resolution of conflicting objectives.

    Protocols for re-definition of group boundaries seems to be a neglected aspect.

  3. #3 Steve Roth
    March 25, 2010

    Two questions unrelated to this post:

    1. What’s wrong with the evolution institute’s web site?

    2. Could scienceblogs add a “notify me of new comments on this post” feature here, or offer post-specific comment feeds?

  4. #4 Troy Camplin
    July 29, 2010

    Doesn’t sounds like it deviates much from Hayek’s ideas. Nothing wrong with groups, so long as they are voluntary. The problem arises when you have someone trying to force their ideas on you and everyone else. Interestingly, that’s hardly social behavior, though it is often sold as such. Real social behavior involves the development of agreed-to norms. Nothing un-libertarian (or un-conservative) about that.

  5. #5 applynow.citicards
    February 2, 2011

    the need for local autonomy gives Lin’s recipe a conservative and libertarian feel.Big government shouldn’t meddle in the affairs of local groups.Regulations formulated by the experts in Washington are part of the problem.

  6. #6 saving money
    February 5, 2011

    I think that there is an emerging consensus that evolutionary economics is the science of the evolution of knowledge embodied in economic systems.In my view, evolutionary economics is not simply a special field of economics.

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    February 15, 2011

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    February 25, 2011

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    March 8, 2011

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  10. #10 altın çilek
    March 26, 2011

    the need for local autonomy gives Lin’s recipe a conservative and libertarian feel.Big government shouldn’t meddle in the affairs of local groups.Regulations formulated by the experts in Washington are part of the problem.

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