Economics and ID go Hand-in-Hand?

Over at UD, ID theorist johnnyb states that it makes perfect sense that economist Bob Murphy would support ID.

[…] there is actually a direct connection between ID and economics. First of all, as I have pointed out innumerable times, ID is not a theory of biology or of origins, it is a theory of causation. Biology and origins are application areas, not the core idea itself.

[…] In his book, Human Action, Ludwig von Mises built a system for economic analysis (known as the “Austrian School”) that explicitly uses the term methodological dualism to describe what they do. This methodological dualism arises from the fact that mind and choices are completely different kinds of causes than are physical/mathematical systems. In other words, they were the first to get rid of naturalism in exchange for including design in their academic work.

First of all, of course economists were not the first to understand that causality via minds (such as conscious will) is radically different from the causality between inert objects. This realisation is as about old as philosophy itself.

Second, the realm of mind is absolutely not called design. Not even intelligent design. It is called the mind. The mind may design stuff, but then it’s the stuff that is designed or has a design, not the mind. Since ID-ists never get this bit right, they are deservedly ignored in academia.

In economics it is not called design either. In economics as a social science, it is called human behaviour, analysed as economic forces and social outcomes through individual, group, and mass behaviour in some order and structure.

To be sure, the causality in economics is decidedly different from causality in, say, physics or biology, but economists were not the pioneers in this. The pioneers in this were the philosophers as elaborators of common sense. And they do not call it design.

There is no necessary connection between economics and ID theory. Rather, there is a necessary disconnect between ID theory and any science worth the name.

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6 thoughts on “Economics and ID go Hand-in-Hand?

  1. This is one of those occasions where the DI licenses its paid provocateurs to say silly things, as if people won’t notice or call them out on it. EricMH has said similarly absurd things, such as “ID is consistent with atheism!” Hmm, well then why isn’t there a single atheist who promotes IDT, rather than just anti-Darwinism or anti-evolutionism?

    “Ludwig von Mises built a system for economic analysis (known as the “Austrian School”)”

    The Austrian School was not built by a single economist.

    “Human Action was written in 1949, and therefore was a predecessor of ID…”

    Um, predecessor? That book antedates the IDM, but that doesn’t link them. The supposed grand conclusion of ID is in fact a starting assumption of all economic theory. All economies are “human-made.” Yet the theory of “Intelligent Design” is explicitly *not* about human-made things. Otherwise, one could conclude that horrible evils committed (theory of causation) by human beings are nevertheless also “intelligently designed”.

    johnnyb wrote:

    “they [economists] were the first to get rid of naturalism in exchange for including design in their academic work.”

    Instead, one can simply say that economics was never required to embrace “naturalism” in the first place. As a human-social science, economics must take into account individual and group choices. According to de Vries, “methodological naturalism” occurs “in the natural sciences.” That johnnyb shows confusion about this is not a surprise, since the DI is not made up of human-social thinkers, but rather mainly of natural-physical scientists & philosophists.

    “Thiel actually uses the term “Intelligent Design” (correctly, in my opinion) to refer to this idea.”

    No, he doesn’t capitalize the concept duo. And “design thinking”, which is not about IDT, is already widespread in entrepreneurship theory. Thiel surely is not applying anything positive from IDT, only sharing the IDM’s negative view of Darwinian evolution.

    In Zero to One, Peter Thiel wrote that, “Darwinism may be a fine theory in other contexts, but in startups, intelligent design works best.” Not a very profound statement, given that no one is arguing that startups don’t require intelligent planning & decision-making. Yet “Darwinism” isn’t a theory, it’s an ideology. Easy mistake. The theory in question is “evolutionary theory,” and there are more varieties on offer than just the Darwinian one. Another problem for Thiel is that “evolutionary entrepreneurship” is still a widely discussed topic.

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  2. Contra johnnyb, there is nothing about methodological dualism that requires the abandonment of naturalism. It just requires us to take a different approach when studying people than when we are studying rocks, atoms, particles, etc.

    The question of whether humans are ultimately physical systems is left unanswered.

    From the Wikipedia article on methodological dualism:

    In arguing for methodological dualism, Mises states because the natural sciences have not yet determined “how definite external events […] produce within the human mind definite ideas, value judgments, and volitions”, this ignorance splits our knowledge into two distinct fields, the “realm of external events” on the one hand, and the “realm of human thought and action” on the other.

    Naturalism is not rejected. It’s just set aside as an unanswered question.

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  3. Those familiar with Daniel Dennett will notice the resemblance between methodological dualism and the intentional stance. Nothing about the latter forces Dennett to give up his naturalism, even for methodological purposes. Both approaches take a higher, agent-based view of people since a lower-level analysis is intractable.

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  4. By now I have listened to the relevant podcast episode by Bob Murphy that johnnyb talked about. Bob Murphy gives no argument for ID theory. He only asserts that ID is “obvious” in biology, based on something like the watchmaker analogy, and that Darwinism (and Marxism and other isms that he uses as curse terms) cannot apply. That’s his assertion from which he makes no connection to economy or economics, so it is just an isolated musing or a rant.

    Moreover, there is a curious disconnect between the Austrian school of thought and IDT in that the Austrian school of thought (the system of choice for both Bob Murphy and johnnyb) is all about free market of individuals untampered by the state. In economic terms the Austrian school strongly affirms de-regulation. When analogically applied in biology, this translates to the antithesis of design!

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  5. The last thing we need is anything from old austria. They never got anything right.
    ID and economics have nothing in common. The universe/biology is God created and has a mechanical operation since creation week including the decay of the fall.
    Economics is only a human thing based on intelligence and a little industriousness. under Gods blessing because of Satans interference and the fall opposition.
    Crationism(s) have no relation to other subjects except origins. Poor old UD.

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  6. I somehow came across this month-old thread. Just wanted to remark that there are major similarities between microeconomics and population genetics. In fact, if you insist that enterprises grow by having all their profit reinvested in the same firm, with no outside investment, then firms grow just like biological clonal genotypes. Admittedly, there is no process in economics that is closely analogous to undirected mutation or to sexual reproduction, but the mathematics of natural selection is similar to growth of firms. There are many economists and some biologists who have written on this, starting as far back as Thorstein Veblen, at least.

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