Gowdy, John M. Dollimore, Denise E. Wilson, David Sloan Witt, Ulrich
Year of Publication:
Papers on Economics and Evolution No. 1212
The intellectual histories of economics and evolutionary biology are closely intertwined because both subjects deal with living, complex, evolving systems. Because the subject matter is similar, contemporary evolutionary thought has much to offer to economics. In recent decades theoretical biology has progressed faster than economics in understanding phenomena like hierarchical processes, cooperative behavior, and selection processes in evolutionary change. This paper discusses three very old cosmologies in Western thought, how these play out in economic theory, and how evolutionary biology can help evaluate their validity and policy relevance. These cosmologies, as manifested in economic theory are, (1) rational economic man, (2) the invisible hand of the market, and (3) the existence of a general competitive equilibrium. It is argued below that current breakthroughs in evolutionary biology and neuroscience can help economics go beyond these simple cosmologies.