Bleeding hearts and unintended consequences
So what's wrong with the Laffer Curve?

Darwinism, anyone?

Link: EconLog, Resolving the Sibling Paradox, Bryan Caplan: Library of Economics and Liberty.

Intelligent critiques of evolutionary theory are extremely rare, but they do exist. Probably the best of the lot is philosopher David Stove. Stove has zero sympathy for religion; his complaint about evolutionary theory is that it makes false predictions.

In an excellent essay, "So You Think You Are a Dawinian?", he points out ten predictions/propositions of Drawinism that are obviously false:

 Most  educated people nowadays, I believe, think of themselves as Darwinians.  If they do, however, it can only be from ignorance: from not knowing   enough about what Darwinism says. For Darwinism says many things,  especially about our species, which are too obviously false to be believed by any educated person; or at least by an educated person who retains any capacity at all for critical thought on the subject of Darwinism.


I  give below ten propositions which are all Darwinian beliefs in the  sense just specified. Each of them is obviously false: either a  direct falsity about our species or, where the proposition is a  general one, obviously false in the case of our species, at least. Some of the ten propositions are quotations; all the others  are paraphrases.


1. The  truth is, ‘the total prostitution of all animal life, including  Man and all his airs and graces, to the blind purposiveness of these  minute virus-like substances’, genes.
2    '…it is, after all, to [a mother’s] advantage that her child should be adopted’ by another woman.
3. All  communication is ‘manipulation of signal-receiver by signal-sender.’
4. Homosexuality  in social animals is a form of sibling-altruism: that is, your homosexuality  is a way of helping your brothers and sisters to raise more children.
5. In all social mammals, the altruism (or apparent altruism) of siblings               towards one another is about as strong and common as the altruism  (or apparent altruism) of parents towards their offspring.
6.  '…no one is prepared to sacrifice his life for any single person, but everyone will sacrifice it for more than two brothers  [or offspring], or four half-brothers, or eight first-cousins.'
7.  Every organism has as many descendants as it can.
8. In  every species, child-mortality - that is, the proportion of live births which die before reproductive age - is extremely high.
9. The  more privileged people are the more prolific: if one class in a  society is less exposed than another to the misery due to food-shortage,  disease, and war, then the members of the more fortunate class will have (on the average) more children than the members of the other  class.
10.  If variations which are useful to their possessors in the struggle  for life ‘do occur, can we doubt (remembering that many more individuals  are born than can possibly survive), that individuals having any advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance  of surviving and of procreating their kind? On the other hand, we  may feel sure that any variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed.’
The point, namely, that if most educated people now think they are Darwinians, it is only because they have  no idea of the multiplied absurdities which belief in Darwinism requires.

I absolutely loved David Stove's essay, "What is Wrong with Our Thoughts? A Neo-Positivist Credo", in which he tries to construct a nosology of human thought!



Thought provoking. The theory of evolution has undergone many revisions from the time of Darwin. Stephen Jay Gould's The Panda's Thumb gives an excellent example of the shifts in orthodoxy.

The comments to this entry are closed.