July 11, 2005

The Issue

Evolution theory has had profound impacts on modern society in diverse disciplines, but it is still full of controversies, and acknowledged gaps in the evidence. To what extent does this ambiguous and taken-for-granted character affect academic endeavor? In particular, in the matter of rigorous theory development.

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  1. Robert O'Toole

    Are you interested in questioning how a concepts from 'evolutionary theory' are used in economics, politics etc? Or are you interested in how academics use the concepts reflectively to consider their own practice – for example, selection of theories through evolutionary pressure?

    Both questions are deeply significant.

    11 Jul 2005, 11:49

  2. I am concerned with the second, how biological evolution theory has influenced theory(those said to be scientific, hence deserving 'serious' attention) development in other fields, especially where the researcher appears to take it forgranted that it is so without delving into the intricate and contested arguments (usually polemic and dogmatic) in the theory. I like the way you put it – "selection of theories through evolutionary pressure". Should academics not show greater awareness of such pressure in publications?

    The predominant academic/social concensus that is an old settled argument may provide space for sloppy if at times serendipitous theorizing. The theory is a good metaphor and has led to useful formulations for example in ecology and evolutionary economics. It's status as a scientific theory when taken as a whole is another matter, and does not appear central to formulations using evolutionary concepts.

    11 Jul 2005, 12:34


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