Author Archive


Levin’s 1966 paper

In Uncategorized on March 5, 2010 by collinrice

André asked me to post the Levins 1966 paper (that everyone is referring to) in the class folder.  Its under “extra readings” for this week if anyone is interested.




Readings for this week clarification

In Uncategorized on February 27, 2010 by collinrice

I messed up the titles of the two Orzack and Sober articles.  The main reading by them for next week is titled, “Optimality Models and the Test of Adaptationism”.  Its the one in the main readings folder.  The other article –  in the extra readings folder –  “How to formulate…”, is bonus coverage.  Sorry for my mix up.


Readings for this week (Optimality)

In Class matters on February 27, 2010 by collinrice

Hello all.  Just wanted to clarify my plan for the readings for next week.  The Seger & Stubblefield Chapter and the Handout I made over maynard smith are meant to introduce the topic of optimality modeling in evolutionary biology.  That is, only read them until you’ve got the general idea of how the models are supposed to work.  The main readings are (1) Orzack & Sober “How to formulate and test adaptationism,” (2) Brandon & Rausher’s response to Orzack & Sober, and (3) Angela Potochnik “Optimality modeling and explanatory generality.”  I’m planning on discussing those three in class (unless anyone has clarification questions about the others).  Since it is a short week, I just wanted to let everyone know what to focus on in more detail.  Thanks for reading.  I’m looking forward to our discussion.




Our interpretation (and hopefully clarification) of Witt’s original categories.

In Uncategorized on February 15, 2010 by collinrice

Josh and I met over the weekend to write up our interpretation of Witt’s distinctions.  The overall goal of our paper is to demonstrate the problems with Witt’s original distinctions and provide a better carving of the terrain for understanding evolutionary economics in terms of the categories Josh and I propose (which he has already posted).  Below is our understanding of Witt’s distinctions.  Any feedback would be much appreciated.

Witt’s ontological distinction is not really ontological at all, in the sense that there is not a difference of opinion about the metaphysical state of the world.  Rather it specifies whether the domain of inquiry of economists is unified with (interdependent, reliant upon, beholden to) the domain of inquiry of biologist.  For Witt, the ontological options are monism and dualism.  The dualist treats the domain of inquiry of economists as distinct from the domain of inquiry of biologists in the sense that they ignore, “possible influences on economic evolution that result from its historical embeddedness in evolution in nature” (Witt, 2008, 550).  In contrast, the monist claims that these domains of inquiry cannot be addressed independently.  That is, they believe, “the mechanisms by which the species have evolved in nature under natural selection … have shaped the ground for, and still influence the constraints of, man-made, cultural forms of evolution, including the evolution of the human economy” (Witt, 2008, 550).  Therefore, the monist claims that biological information must be taken into account when studying economic systems.

Witt causes a great deal of confusion in calling this distinction an ontological one.  Ontology concerns the structure of the world; Witt’s distinction concerns the relevance of the structure of the world to economic inquiry.  As such it is a heuristic distinction not an ontological one.  This of course causes confusion given that the other distinction in Witt’s 2×2 matrix is supposed to describe differences at the heuristic level.

Witt also distinguishes between the heuristic strategies of utilizing “generalized Darwinian concepts” and a “generic concept of evolution”.  The former strategy is employed by economists who find most useful, in investigating economic evolution, the Darwinian concepts of variation, selection, and retention.  The alterative strategy is employed by those who find useful an abstraction of evolution to the most generic terms, which Witt identifies as those of “emergence and dissemination of novelty” (Witt, 2008, 559 footnote 8).  Within biology, emergence and dissemination of novelty occur according to the Darwinian principles of variation, selection, and retention.  Yet, in economics evolution may occur according to other principles.