Economics and policy issues Naturalism

Why Economics and ID go Hand-in-Hand

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In my previous post about Bob Murphy’s support of ID, some people commented that Bob Murphy, being an economist, doesn’t count much in support of ID. However, those comments would be misplaced.

Although Bob Murphy did not get into this in this podcast episode, 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.

Naturalism causes us to have blinders on not just in the case of evolution, but in any number of other academic endeavors as well. When we assume that humans are automatons, and that the society we live in operates as a static equation, we are leaning into the same intellectual vice as when we assume that sophisticated living systems arise from random mutation and natural selection.

Before there was the ID movement, this was noticed by economists. 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.

Human Action was written in 1949, and therefore was a predecessor of ID. Unfortunately, ID and Austrian economics are rarely spoken of together. ID and Austrian economics don’t actually share an intellectual history, but, rather, they both saw the same disease in academic thought, and identified very similar cures.

We talk about this a bit in Naturalism and Its Alternatives in Scientific Methodologies. For a less academic (and more modern) introduction to this idea, I would pick up Peter Thiel’s Zero to One. Thiel actually uses the term “Intelligent Design” (correctly, in my opinion) to refer to this idea. While Thiel focuses on microeconomics (specifically startups), George Gilder wrote a book on the same idea, focusing on macroeconomics, called Knowledge and Power. While Gilder doesn’t use the term “Intelligent Design” like Thiel does, I would be surprised if this isn’t what Gilder had in mind, considering the fact that Gilder is a co-founder of the Discovery Institute.

So, rather than economics being a completely side issue, the Austrian school of economics is actually somewhat of an intellectual cousin of ID, both utilizing similar concepts, ideas, and techniques in analyzing the world. Bob Murphy doesn’t go into this particular aspect in his podcast, but hopefully he will on a future one.

One Reply to “Why Economics and ID go Hand-in-Hand

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    JB, Quite interesting. Economics is about choice amidst scarcity where the real cost of what is taken up us the best alternative foregone. Likewise, as failure is costly and sometimes ruinous, what exists across time is in key part what is adequate [as opposed to perfect]. Consequently, technological evolution reflects survival of the advantageous combined with risky experiment compounded by persistence of power promoted, subsidised failure. The latter, until things go over the cliff. KF

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