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SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  January 2003

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE January 2003

Subject:

Economics as an evolutionary science

From:

Human Nature Review <[log in to unmask]>

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Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 17 Jan 2003 13:28:48 -0600

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Human Nature Review  2003 Volume 3: 21-23 ( 17 January )
URL of this document http://human-nature.com/nibbs/03/gandolfi.html

Book Review

Economics as an evolutionary science: From utility to fitness
by Arthur E. Gandolfi, Anna S. Gandolfi and David P. Barash
New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers 2002

Reviewed by Daniel Nettle, Ph.D., Lecturer in Biological Psychology, Department
of Biological Sciences and Psychology at the Open University, United Kingdom.

The union of evolutionary biology and economics has been on the horizon for
some time now. After all, economics concerns the theory of how individuals
decide to what activities to allocate their time, energy and resources; modern
behavioural biology could be described in exactly the same way, though of
course it is not limited to Homo Sapiens. Economics and biology even share many
of the same tools, notably game theory and various kinds of optimisation
models. In practice there seem to have been two major gulfs between these
evidently consilient fields, both of which this important book makes
initiatives to cross.

The first gulf is one of disciplinary territory. Economics has traditionally
concerned itself with the production and consumption of goods in the market.
This restriction has an enormous methodological advantage in that all such
activity is by definition monetised; thus economics gains a useful, universal
and fungible measure of value. Behaviour outside the arena of the market -
friendships, marriage, parenting and so on - have generally been left to
sociology and psychology. This territorial restriction can ultimately make no
sense. The things people value most, and which have greatest impact on their
work and consumption decisions within the market, take place outside the
monetised domain. If a species has evolved that makes decisions as a maximising
rational actor in one part of its life, there is no intellectual justification
for assuming that this does not also characterise its behaviour in the other
parts. Moreover, the portion of human activity that is marketised has varied
with historical circumstance, and in many traditional societies has been close
to zero. Yet there is no reason to assume that the rational actor model does
not apply to such societies; or rather, if it fails in some places, it fails in
all.

Full text
http://human-nature.com/nibbs/03/gandolfi.html
Other articles and reviews at http://human-nature.com/nibbs/contents.html
Daily news at http://human-nature.com/nibbs/

___________

Economics As an Evolutionary Science: From Utility to Fitness
by Arthur E. Gandolfi, Anna Sachko Gandolfi, David P. Barash
Hardcover: 302 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.99 x 9.98 x 6.02
Publisher: Transaction Pub; ; (February 2003
AMAZON - US
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/076580123X/darwinanddarwini
AMAZON - UK
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/076580123X/humannaturecom

Economics is traditionally taken to be the social science concerned with the
production, consumption, exchange, and distribution of wealth and commodities.
Economists carefully track the comings and goings of the human household,
whether written small (microeconomics) or large (macroeconomics) and attempt to
predict future patterns under different situations. However, in constructing
their models of economic behavior, economists often lose sight of the actual
characteristics and motivations of their human subjects. In consequence, they
have found the goal of an explanatory and predictive science to be elusive.
Economics as an Evolutionary Science reorients economics toward a more direct
appreciation of human nature, with an emphasis on what we have learned from
recent advances in evolutionary science.

The authors integrate economics and evolution to produce a social science that
is rigorous, internally coherent, testable, and consistent with the natural
sciences. The authors suggest an expanded definition of "fitness," as in Darwin
's survival of the fittest, emphasizing not only the importance of reproduction
and the quality of offspring, but also the unique ability of humans to provide
material wealth to their children. The book offers a coherent explanation for
the recent decline in fertility, which is shown to be consistent with the
evolutionary goal of maximizing genetic success. In addition, the authors
demonstrate the relevance to economics of several core concepts derived from
biologists, including the genetics of parent-offspring conflict, inclusive
fitness theory, and the phenomena of R-selection and K-selection. The keystone
of their presentation is a cogent critique of the traditional concept of
"utility." As the authors demonstrate, the concept can be modified to reflect
the fundamental evolutionary principle whereby living things-including human
beings-have been selected to behave in a manner that maximizes their genetic
representation in future generations.

Despite the extraordinary interest in applying evolutionary biology to other
disciplines, Economics as an Evolutionary Science marks the first major attempt
at a synthesis of biology and economics. Scholarly yet accessible, this volume
offers unique and original perspectives on an entire discipline.

Arthur E. Gandolfi is vice president and senior portfolio manager for Citicorp
Bank Cards Treasury. He is co-author of The International Transmission of
Inflation. Anna Sachko Gandolfi is professor of economics, finance, and
management at Manhattanville College at Purchase, NY. David P. Barash is
professor of psychology and zoology at the University of Washington where he
has taught since 1973. He is the author of twenty books and more than 170
technical articles.

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