Arnold Kling  

Evolution vs. Intelligent Design

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In my latest essay, I write,


While I have little faith in individual corporations, I have more faith in decentralized market processes. For example, although I have no admiration for any oil company in particular, I believe that we will never run out of oil. I trust markets in the aggregate to send the right price signals to encourage development of alternative energy sources. We do not need the Intelligent Design of a government energy policy to achieve that objective.

UPDATE: a reader forwards this link


creationism: n.

The (false) belief that large, innovative software designs can be completely specified in advance and then painlessly magicked out of the void by the normal efforts of a team of normally talented programmers. In fact, experience has shown repeatedly that good designs arise only from evolutionary, exploratory interaction between one (or at most a small handful of) exceptionally able designer(s) and an active user population -- and that the first try at a big new idea is always wrong. Unfortunately, because these truths don't fit the planning models beloved of management, they are generally ignored.


From Eric Raymond's hacker's dictionary.

UPDATE II: It turns out that Mathematician John Allen Paolos is as puzzled as I am that people can be biological evolutionists and economic creationists, or vice-versa.


What would you think of someone who studied economic entities and their interactions in a modern free market economy and insisted that they were, despite a perfectly reasonable and empirically supported Smithian account of their development, the consequence of some all-powerful, detail-obsessed economic law-giver? You might deem such a person a conspiracy theorist.

And what would you think of someone who studied biological processes and organisms and insisted that they were, despite an perfectly reasonable and empirically supported Darwinian account of their development, the consequence of some all-powerful, detail-obsessed biological law-giver?



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The author at Cold Spring Shops in a related article titled CLOCKMAKERS OR BEEKEEPERS? writes:
    The Welfare Economics Paradigm approach to public policy suggests that a properly designed tax, transfer, subsidy, or rule will improve allocative efficiency in the economy, or provide a more egalitarian set of initial endowments from which to achiev... [Tracked on September 15, 2005 12:11 PM]
COMMENTS (8 to date)
David Thomson writes:

One should pity Brad DeLong. He is rapidly becoming a marginalized figure within the Democratic Party. He is for free trade while the real power brokers have become fervent protectionists. The man also teaches at Berkeley. This means that he is probably perceived as some sort of right-wing nut case by the faculty and students. It should therefore not surprise anyone that DeLong seemingly feels the need to prove how liberal he is. He also studied at Harvard University. The pervasive mindset of this grossly overrated educational institution is that one should be a knee jerk Democrat. The banal and second rate John Kenneth Galbraith is Harvard’s most famous economist. What more needs to be said?

Democrats believe in big government. The principle of Subsidiarity is alien to them. This is why we cannot allow Democrats---and liberal Republicans to win elections. Those who persist to embrace the failed economic policies of the past must not be allowed to dictate our future.

spencer writes:

Yes, poor liberal Harvard.

We have a President from Harvard,
until recently his head of the CEA
was from Harvard.

Moreover, one of the leading candidates
for the next Chairman of the Federal
Reserve is a very conserative economist
from Harvard that heads the NBER.

Gailbraith has been retired for some 20 years,
after all he is over 90 years old.

Roger D. McKinney writes:

I agree with Prof Kling. The oil industry is fragmented enough to work farely well as a market. As a result, I expect oil prices to decline much faster than the pop media do. Sometime in the summer of next year, the pipeline from the Caspian Sea to the Med port in Turkey will begin delivering 10 million bpd. The high price has spurred new discoveries in the US, and of course, there's the Canadian tar sands. If I had the money gamble, I would sell oil futues now.

Bob Knaus writes:

Amusing analogy, Arnold! I like it.

The irony is that the architects of Intelligent Design in the public sector are, in fact, more intelligent than their private-sector counterparts. I cannot google anything relevant due to all the static generated on the web by The Bell Curve, but I do recall reading that people who do well in business management often have IQs in the 120s, whereas the upper reaches of civil service tend to have people with IQs in the 130s.

This certainly aligns with my experience as a management consultant to public sector organizations. Upper management was generally quite pleasant to work with -- bright, well educated, strong believers in their agency's mission, and convinced that they were sacrificing potential earnings in the private sector for some higher good. Stereotypical bureacratic bumbling was something I saw mostly at the worker bee level and to a lesser extent at the mid-management level.

Seems to me that many academics might do well in agency management, and vice versa :-)

Gerhard Riener writes:

@David Thomson: Democrats are for big government? To my opinion this is not a characteristic of either democrat or republican, but of any politician in power. If you look at the Bush administation (not a liberal Republican or even a Democrat) discretionary spending has increased heaviliy and markets have been distorted by its willingness to give loads of contracts not to the most efficient firms but to firms in which their friends have heavy (financial) interest in. This sort of nepotism is worse than a moderatly planning government that sets social directions, a purpose for which it has been democratically elected.

Matthew Cromer writes:

The huge difference is that biological evolution is believed by most scientists to be driven by blind changes (random mutations) and that Lamarkian inheritance is not possible, while business firm decisions are teleological (if imperfect!) and Lamarkian inheritance is a given.

AJ writes:

Arnold, that's a brilliant juxtaposition - (I had not seen Paolos' comment)

What you've pointed at are two conflicting meta-ideas (is there another word for this) that underly views on particular topics of the day -- meta ideas (or philosophical underpinings) and their disagreements seem to go on forever while the opinion-issue of the day evolves with every generation.

I've often thought that most people (including intellectuals) go around with their meta ideas already in place and then glom onto various issues of the day which fit those predilections. But when you see, as above, that people regularly hold opposite meta-ideas on two fundamental issues, I'm not so sure.

Allan W Janssen writes:

What we have here is failure to communicate!
“What we have here is failure to communicate!” Maybe not an original quote, but as far as the Evolution / Creation debate goes, perhaps a very appropriate one!
The constant war of words between Darwinists and Creationists has been ongoing for many years and has not been resolved to anyone’s satisfaction. Perhaps we should go right back to the very basics and start to build from there; just to see what happens!
First of all we have to take a position that there is either a God, or there is not!
If there is no God then the Darwinists are absolutely right and everything was created by dumb luck and there is no purpose to anything!
I can see why evolutionists have been so adamant that natural selection and the progression of lower life forms into higher ones, without outside help, seem to be the natural order of things. They have a compelling argument and the term; “Just the facts, Ma’am” bear them out.
However, the supposition that life, and by correlation intelligence, is the result of blind chance with no interference from a God, is the same as saying that by default there is no God! In other words, to accept evolution from a scientific point of view without taking into account the theological implications of the Atheists being right, does a great disservice to anyone who has any feelings at all of a religious/spiritual nature.
I personally cannot imagine a world where there is no God at all. That this whole kit-and-caboodle we call the Universe is just a random organization of the basic elements with no ultimate purpose! This extremist’s view is no better than those of religious fanatics who try and tell me that the world is no more than seven thousand years old. Both are the result of people polarized in their own views and beliefs. After all, a belief that there is no God is in no way any different than the view that there is a God; both depend on a personal belief system, since neither can be scientifically proven!
This is not to say that we should teach the biblical version of the creation of the universe as literal truth since any rational, semi-educated person realizes that Holy Scripture is a compilation of parables, prophesy, folk-lore, metaphor’s and common sense in a first century context! Nor should we refer to the bible as a historical work since it is more concerned with the mind-set and morality of people than an account of their achievements!
If we can learn to distinguish between the metaphorical and the historical aspects of the scriptures then it makes it all the easier to differentiate between the divergent aims of scientific and theological schools of thought. Just as the far right claims biblical truth and rejects scientific evidence, the Darwinists are at a loss to explain how the Universe (The Big Bang) came into being from absolutely nothing.
It’s like comparing apples and oranges. Both are different and have a different purpose. To attempt a comparison is the same as looking for common ground when talking about two totally different things.
With this in mind there is no real conflict between religion and science. God is by God’s very nature unknowable. What I object to is the human trait of forming special interest groups whose sole job is giving only their explanation of God and even making proclamations and laws in God's name. This to me is the height of human arrogance and self-deception.
We do not know how God interacts with our universe and should not use one philosophy (religion or science) to try and explain the other. “Render therefore to Cesar the things which are Cesar's, and to God the things which are God's.” In other words, I am all for teaching Creationism in school; as soon as they start teaching evolution in church!
I have a theory, and it’s called Evolution!
I have a belief, and it’s called Intelligent Design!

Allan W Janssen

(Excerpts from my book “God-101, what the church doesn’t want you to know!”)

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