David Sloan Wilson comments on Noah Smith's comments.
The main reason that the so-called orthodox school of economics achieved its dominance is because it seemed to offer a grand unifying theoretical framework. Too bad that its assumptions were absurd and little effort was made to test its empirical predictions. Its failure does not change the fact that some unifying theoretical framework is required to prevent the “ten million cool theories” problem. What Nick Hanauer, Eric Liu, and I are saying (Smith misses that our arguments are cut from the same cloth) is that a combination of evolutionary theory and complexity theory offers the best prospect for a unifying theoretical framework. We are not alone in this assessment. A volume titled “Complexity and Evolution: A New Synthesis for Economics” based on a conference organized by Germany’s Ernst Strungmann Forum last year, will be published by MIT Press later this year.
It’s easy to get bogged down in the semantics of whether something counts as a new synthesis or not. This was a major discussion point at the conference, with some of the participants arguing for a “continuous with the past” view and others arguing for a “break with the past” view. Interestingly, a similar conversation is taking place over the phrase “Extended Evolutionary Synthesis” in my field of evolutionary biology, which I will be reporting upon in the Evolution Institute’s online magazine This View of Life. These conversations are not just word splitting. They bear critically upon the hypothesis formation half of the scientific process, which is just as important as the hypothesis testing half.Evonomics
Earth to Economics: Welcome to Science 101
David Sloan Wilson | SUNY Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University and Arne Næss Chair in Global Justice and the Environment at the University of Oslo