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February 21, 2005


Trent McBride

Thanks for the link!

I should clarify that there is nothing in Dawkins, or at least in the part quoted by Boudreaux that I disagree with. Dawkins theories of gene selection are highly controversial, of course - but, if you ask me, highly persuasive. My argument is, while some sort of "market gene," while technically plausibly, is unlikely according to my own understanding of human historty and geneology.

Jason Turner

Trent...On closer reading I fear I may have come across as ambivalent on the explanatory power of evolutionary theory. I am not, and find it to be a persusasive and powerful tool for accouting for a wide variety of behaviors and activities.

My only issue with Boudreaux's hypothesis was explanatory over-reach. It stretches the theory beyond coherence to attempt to account for every specific form of behavior. For the sake of simplicity, it seems that complex behaviors (and their corresponding social constructions) can best be attributed to a number of genetic urges which may find expression in a variety of forms - economic activity being a perfect example. That humans engage in economic activity does not mean that they possess 'market genes' (which, as you argue, seems historically suspect). It simply means that humans seek out activity that increases the chances of their survival.


I've been into this stuff, myself lately. Matt Ridley's Origins of Virtue does a good job of explaning this phenomenon. Instead of thinking of it as "humans are homo economicus," think of it as: "humans are predisposed to cooperate with non-hostile groups, where possible--which usually takes the form of trade in the David Ricardo sense (division of labor, gains from trade)."

Jason Turner

I like that. I think that's a pretty good way of putting it. Keeping the rule pretty broad, something along the lines of, "humans are pre-disposed to cooperate (for advantage) with non-hostile groups" is the best way to account for complex behavior and activity.

Trent McBride

I'm pretty sure we're in perfect agreement. My beef was with Boudreaux, not Dawkins. As, it seems was yours.

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