Economics and Evolution as Different Paradigms

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With Tinbergen’s four questions in mind (II), we can continue examining the reasons why evolution might be irrelevant for the study of a particular trait, even though the trait is a product of evolution. Reason #4 has already been considered (I) and this post will consider reason # 3: The concept of design long predates…

If you’re an economist, you know about Jan Tinbergen, who shared the first Nobel Prize in Economics with Ragnar Frisch in 1969 for his work on dynamic models of economic processes. If you’re an evolutionist, you know about the other Tinbergen, Jan’s younger brother Niko, who shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine with Konrad Lorenz…

I spend much of my time talking with people about subjects, such as education or economics, that have not been traditionally approached from an evolutionary perspective. For me, evolution provides a framework for thinking about all living processes, a fact that is already established for the biological sciences and is in the process of becoming…

Greetings from Lisbon, where I am helping to inaugurate the first EvoS program in Europe. EvoS (for Evolutionary Studies, pronounced as one word) teaches evolution across the curriculum. I started the first program at Binghamton, others are sprouting across the United States, and the first program in Europe has started thanks to a petite woman…

This is the final installment of my “Economics and Evolution as Different Paradigms” series. The series reflects what I have learned as president of the Evolution Institute, working with literally scores of people who know a lot more. A partnership with the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) has funded the effort, starting with a conference…

So far I have shown that Homo economicus, the conception of human nature imagined by rational choice theory, is a far cry from the real thing. Moreover, it stubbornly refuses to gravitate toward the real thing, even when its shortcomings are made glaringly apparent. This might seem pathological, but only when we adopt a na├»ve…

The term “market fundamentalism” was popularized by George Soros in his 1998 book The Crisis of Global Capitalism and has led a lively existence ever since. It’s a great epithet, but what does it really mean to call a set of beliefs fundamentalist? Can the claim be proven? And what’s wrong with subscribing to fundamentalist…

Everything that evolves requires two explanations. First, why does a given trait exist compared to many other traits that could exist (ultimate causation)? Second, what are the physical mechanisms that cause the trait to be expressed (proximate causation)? The question “Why do apple flowers bloom in spring?” nicely illustrates the distinction between ultimate and proximate…

Consilience, or the unity of knowledge, is the Nirvana of science, where everything interlocks consistently with everything else. Neoclassical economics is not consilient with other branches of knowledge and the strongest argument on its behalf is that it doesn’t need to be (e.g., Milton Friedman’s classic paper discussed in E&E III). In contrast, when I…

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…