SUMMARY OF CHAPTER ONE
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS ARE NOW INVITED ON THIS CHAPTER
The opening chapter of the book discussed the relationship between evolutionary biology and the social sciences and its history. A distinction must be drawn between “biological reductionism” (attempting to explain social phenomena entirely in terms of genes) and the application of abstract evolutionary principles to socio-economic change. Darwin himself (who knew nothing about genes) conjectured that his principles may apply to the evolution of entities at the social level. This idea was taken up by a number of writers – including Walter Bagehot and Thorstein Veblen – before the whole idea of using biological ideas in the social sciences became highly unpopular in the early decades of the twentieth century. The application of abstract Darwinian principles to social evolution was revived by Donald T. Campbell (1965) and others after the Second World War. But it was not until the last few years that abstract Darwinian evolutionary principles have been sufficiently refined to develop a theoretical framework that is applicable to socio-economic evolution.
1. What is the difference between biological reductionism and the derivation of common principles applicable to both biological and social evolution?
2. Why did the idea of deriving abstract evolutionary principles for the social sciences fall out of favor for so long?
3. What is the difference between analogy and generalization?