Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 655–675 | Cite as

Interdisciplinary modeling: a case study of evolutionary economics

Article

Abstract

Biologists and economists use models to study complex systems. This similarity between these disciplines has led to an interesting development: the borrowing of various components of model-based theorizing between the two domains. A major recent example of this strategy is economists’ utilization of the resources of evolutionary biology in order to construct models of economic systems. This general strategy has come to be called “evolutionary economics” and has been a source of much debate among economists. Although philosophers have developed literatures on the nature of models and modeling, the unique issues surrounding this kind of interdisciplinary model building have yet to be independently investigated. In this paper, we utilize evolutionary economics as a case study in the investigation of more general issues concerning interdisciplinary modeling. We begin by critiquing the distinctions currently used within the evolutionary economics literature and propose an alternative carving of the conceptual terrain. We then argue that the three types of evolutionary economics we distinguish capture distinctions that will be important whenever resources of model-based theorizing are borrowed across distinct scientific domains. Our analysis of these model-building strategies identifies several of the unique methodological and philosophical issues that confront interdisciplinary modeling.

Keywords

Models Modeling Evolutionary economics Universal Darwinism Analogy 

References

  1. Achinstein P (1964) Models, analogies, and theories. Philos Sci 31(4):328–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Achinstein P (1965) Theoretical models. Br J Philos Sci 16(62):102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Achinstein P (1968) Concepts of science. Johns Hopkins Press, BaltimoreGoogle Scholar
  4. Alchian AA (1950) Uncertainty, evolution, and economic theory. J Polit Econ 58(3):211–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Aldrich HE, Ruef M (2006) Organizations evolving, 2nd edn. SAGE Publications Ltd, LondonGoogle Scholar
  6. Aldrich HE, Hodgson GM, Hull DL, Knudsen T, Mokyr J, Vanberg VJ (2008) In defence of generalized Darwinism. J Evol Econ 18(5):577–596CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bergstrom TC (2002) Evolution of social behavior: individual and group selection. J Econ Perspectives 16(2):67–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Campbell DT (1969) Variation and selective retention in socio-cultural evolution. Gen Syst 14:19–49Google Scholar
  9. Cordes C (2006) Darwinism in economics: from analogy to continuity. J Evol Econ 16:529–541CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dawkins R (1983) Universal Darwinism. In: Bendall DS (ed) Evolution from molecules to men. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 403–425Google Scholar
  11. Dennett DC (1995) Darwin’s dangerous idea: evolution and the meanings of life. Simon and Schuster, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  12. Frenken K (2006) A fitness landscape approach to technological complexity, modularity, and vertical disintegration. Struct Change Econ Dyn 17:288–305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Friedman D (1998) On economic applications of evolutionary game theory. J Evol Econ 8(1):15–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Godfrey-Smith P (2006) The strategy of model-based science. Biol Philos 21(5):725–740CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Godfrey-Smith P (2009) Models and fictions in science. Philos Stud 143:101–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hodgson GM (1993) Economics and evolution. The University of Michigan Press, Ann ArborGoogle Scholar
  17. Hodgson GM (2002) Darwinism in economics: from analogy to ontology. J Evol Econ 12(3):259–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hodgson GM, Knudsen T (2006a) The nature and units of social selection. J Evol Econ 16(5):477–489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hodgson GM, Knudsen T (2006b) Why we need a generalized Darwinism, and why generalized Darwinism is not enough. J Econ Behav Organ 61(1):1–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hull D (2001) Science and selection: essays on biological evolution and the philosophy of science. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  21. Lehtinen A, Kuorikoski J (2007) Unrealistic assumptions in rational choice theory. Philos Soc Sci 37(2):115–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Levins R (1966) The strategy of model building in population biology. Am Sci 54(4):421–431Google Scholar
  23. Lewontin R (1970) The units of selection. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 1:1–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mäki U (2009) Models and the locus of their truth. Synthese. doi:10.1007/s11229-009-9566-0
  25. Matthewson J, Weisberg M (2009) The structure of tradeoffs in model building. Synthese 170(1):169–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Maynard Smith J (1978) Optimization theory in evolution. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 9(1):31–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Maynard Smith J (1982) Evolution and the theory of games. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  28. McPherson JM, Ranger-Moore JR (1991) Evolution on a dancing landscape: organizations and networks in dynamic blau space. Social Forces 70(1):18–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. McPherson JM, Popielarz PA, Drobnic S (1992) Social networks and organizational dynamics. Am Soc Rev 57(2):153–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Morgan MS, Morrison M (1999) Models as mediators: perspectives on natural and social science. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Nelson RR, Winter SG (1982) An evolutionary theory of economic change. Belknap Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  32. Odenbaugh J (2005) Idealized, inaccurate but successful: a pragmatic approach to evaluating models in theoretical ecology. Biol Philos 20(2):231–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Penrose ET (1952) Biological analogies in the theory of the firm. Am Econ Rev 42(5):804–819Google Scholar
  34. Plotkin H (1994) Darwin machines and the nature of knowledge. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  35. Rabin M (1998) Psychology and economics. J Econ Lit 36(1):11–46Google Scholar
  36. Robson AJ (2002) Evolution and human nature. J Econ Perspect 16(2):89–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Robson AJ, Kaplan HS (2006) Viewpoint: the economics of hunter-gatherer societies and the evolution of human characteristics. Can J Econ 39(2):375–398CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Robson AJ, Samuelson L (2011) The evolutionary foundations of preferences. In: Benhabib J, Bisin A, Jackson M (eds) The social economics handbook. Elsevier Press, San Diego, pp 221–305Google Scholar
  39. Rosenberg A (1994) Does evolutionary theory give comfort or inspiration to economics? In: Mirowski P (ed) Natural images in economic thought: markets read in tooth and claw. Cambridge University Press, New York, pp 172–194Google Scholar
  40. Ruse M (1986) Taking Darwin seriously: a naturalistic approach to philosophy. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  41. Ruth M (1996) Evolutionary economics at the crossroads of biology and physics. J Soc Evol Syst 19(2):123–144Google Scholar
  42. Schumpeter J (1934) The theory of economic development. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  43. Veblen T (1898) Why is economics not an evolutionary science? Camb J Econ 22(4):403Google Scholar
  44. Vromen JJ (2001) The human agent in evolutionary economics. In: Laurent J, Nightingale J (eds) Darwinism and evolutionary economics. Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, Northhampton, pp 184–208Google Scholar
  45. Weisberg M (2007a) Three kinds of idealization. J Philos 104(12):639–659Google Scholar
  46. Weisberg M (2007b) Who is a modeler? Br J Philos Sci 58(2):207–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Witt U (1992) Evolutionary concepts in economics. East Econ J 18(4):405–419Google Scholar
  48. Witt U (1999a) Bioeconomics as economics from a Darwinian perspective. J Bioecon 1(1):19–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Witt U (1999b) Evolutionary economics and evolutionary biology. In: Koslowksi P (ed) Sociobiology and bioeconomics. The theory of evolution in biological and economic theory. Springer, Berlin, pp 279–298Google Scholar
  50. Witt U (2003a) Evolutionary economics and the extension of evolution to the economy. In: Witt U (ed) The evolving economy. Essays on the evolutionary approach to economics. Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham, pp 3–34Google Scholar
  51. Witt U (2003b) The evolving economy: essays on the evolutionary approach to economics. Edward Elgar Publishing, NorthamptonGoogle Scholar
  52. Witt U (2008) What is specific about evolutionary economics? J Evol Econ 18(5):547–575CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA

Personalised recommendations