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Saturday, June 04, 2005

Darwinian markets? Huh?

If you want to know what Darwinism has become, consider “Economist Paul Seabright on how homo sapiens evolved into homo economicus”, apparently a treatise on "Darwinian markets" in Reason Online.
(Note: IF you came here looking for information on the uproar over the Smithsonian screening of an ID-friendly film, The Privileged Planet, go here and here to start. Then, for best service, go here. I do continue to update the story as I hear new items of interest. Also, please note that the blogs listed in the box on the right side also update the story, and I will have plenty more to say about it tomorrow. But right now, I want to talk about “Darwinian markets” for a minute. - Denyse)

Here are some quotations from a Reason Online interview on that I hope you will read:
You can still use selective explanations, though they're much more likely to be cultural as opposed to natural selection explanations, but at the same time they have to be compatible with what we think the psychology was that survived through the African woodland savannah. So, for example, if we want to think that human beings are inherently pacifist in nature, we have to explain how a pacifist nature could've survived on the woodland savannah, and that's not very plausible.

If they are "cultural" explanations, then they have nothing to do with Darwin’s natural selection acting on random mutations at all, but belong to a different type of thinking.

It's true that you can sometimes look in a sort of pop-sociology way at the fact that people don't stop at traffic lights in Brazil even when there are policemen there, whereas in Sweden they frequently do even when there are no policemen there, and say something about the tendency of the society for social order. On the other hand, whether people stop at traffic lights is not really a fundamental determinant of their prosperity. What's much more important is the kinds of associative habits they have and, crudely put, who they're prepared to trust.

If people stop at traffic lights when no one is around, that tells you that they respect social order as one of their "associative habits". This behaviour is common in Canada as well as Sweden. Social order is a fundamental determinant of prosperity, to be sure, but social order is not about “survival of the fittest” or natural selection acting on random mutations. It is a deliberate choice for other values instead, including values that do not necessarily result in more or better offspring, which is the only thing that can matter to Darwinian evolution (!).

Enjoy my favorite lines with me:
REASON: Which evolved traits of our hunter-gatherer brains turned out to be conducive to market society?

PS: The two key characteristics are the ability to calculate and to reflect on what's prudent for you and the ability to respond with reciprocity to others—to respond warmly and generously to others' warmth and generosity. I suggested you can't reduce one to the other: We don't respond generously to generous people just because we calculate that it's in our interest to do so. Modern life is so complex and full of opportunities for cheating—if you're really determined—that if everyone had an eye to the main chance 100 percent of the time, we probably couldn't get any social cooperation going.

In that case, we are not talking about a Darwinian process at all! It may be possible to describe what is happening when people cooperate — even when it is against their own interests — in a fully naturalistic way (which means no intelligent design). I reasonably doubt that, but in any event, we are not describing a Darwinian process if we are not talking about the selfish gene, natural selection acting on random mutation, survival of the fittest, or some other form of non-intelligent natural selection. We are talking about the outcomes of intelligent choices.

If this article is a good example of Darwinism, then Darwinism is in bad shape, but why believe me? Read it for yourself, and weep.

Thomas Huxley would have wept.

As I said in By Design or by Chance?, Huxley, perhaps Darwin’s most loyal disciple, warned about Darwinian evolution:

History warns us . . . that it is the customary fate of new truths to begin as heresies and to end as superstitions; and, as matters now stand, it is hardly rash to anticipate that, in another twenty years, the new generation, educated under the influences of the present day, will be in danger of accepting the main doctrines of the “Origin of Species,” with as little reflection, and it may be with as little justification, as so many of our contemporaries, twenty years ago, rejected them. Against any such a consummation let us all devoutly pray; for the scientific spirit is of more value than its products, and irrationally held truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors.

(Pages 242-43) Source: T.H. Huxley, “The Coming of Age of the ‘Origin of Species,’” in Darwiniana: Essays by Thomas H. Huxley [1896], (New York: AMS Press, 1970), p. 229.

I see now why immortality would not really benefit humanity after all. I am glad that Huxley did not live to see this stuff.

If you like this blog, buy my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?, and help keep me in business.

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