Evolution and game theory

One aspect of my debate with Scott Hatfield that seems to have escaped the attention of every single TENS enthusiast or Darwin defender is that my use of concepts from economics to criticize evolution is neither strange nor inappropriate. I submit that it is entirely natural given the way in which evolutionists have attempted to coopt certain economic concepts in much the same way past economists – the Marxists in particular – coopted Darwinism on behalf of their “scientific” discipline.

In this light, it is amusing to compare the following three statements:

“I have a hunch that we may come back to look back on the invention of the ESS [Evolutionary Stable Strategy] as one of the most important advances in evolutionary theory since Darwin.”
– Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene

“But if, as is generally the case, there are more than two players or the players have both conflicting and joint interests, there may be no solutions or there may be many. We often settle for outcomes that are more stable, enforceable, or equitable than the others. Although these solutions may be plausible, they are generally not compelling.”
– Morton Davis, Game Theory: A Nontechnical Introduction

“It is probably clear, then, that games do contain some of the basic elements that are present in almost any interesting conflict situation. Does it follow that we can learn useful things by beginning a study with them? Not necessarily. It may be that military, economic and social situations are just basically too complicated to be approached through game concepts. This possibility gains credence from the fact that the body of Game doctrine now in existence is not even able to cope with full-blown real games; rather, we are restricted to watered-down versions of complicated ones, such as Poker.”
– J.D. Williams, The Compleat Strategyst

Now, if Darwinists can argue that the socialist expropriation and misapplication of evolution is bad science, and I think they can, then economists can just as reasonably argue that the evolutionist expropriation and misapplication of game theory is equally bad science. Nor is it unreasonable to conclude that if a poorly understood and incorrectly applied economic concept is one of the most important advances in evolutionary theory since Darwin, the theory is likely to have some significant weaknesses.

After reading The Selfish Gene and concocting a parody of ESS “science”, I was inspired to pick up a copy of John Maynard Smith’s Evolution and the Theory of Games. I hope to write a critical review of it in the next month or two.

I expect to find that the primary flaw will turn out to be that evolutionists are making the same mistake as the macroeconomists and game theoreticians in assuming perfectly rational decision makers. (The game theoreticians openly recognize this flaw, the Keynesians and Darwinists blithely ignore it.) The fact that Darwinists are making this assumption of rational action in the case of plants and animals instead of humans only makes their theories look even more absurd than the dysfunctional Keynesian models; the good news is that their use of game theory allows for substantive empirical criticism of their research.

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