Sunday, August 24, 2014

Friedrich Hayek Lecture: Evolution and Spontaneous Order

At the 33rd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, Friedrich Hayek discusses the complexity of the social systems and gives an historic overview reaching back to Aristotle.

A transcript of the lecture is here.

1 comment:

  1. A 50-min talk on social evolution and no mention of Herbert Spencer? Come on, Friedrich!

    AFAIK it was Spencer who first drew the analogy between human social evolution and biological development - not Darwin. And Spencer based his theory of social evolution on the work of Lamarck - not Darwin. Darwinian natural selection (based on random mutation) does not incorporate volition but Spencerian cultural evolution (based on *cultural* use-inheritance) does. Human culture does not evolve randomly...

    I don't think any philosopher before Spencer understood evolutionary ethics in such terms. This is what led Spencer to propose his principle of equal freedom in Social Statics for creating the sociopolitical conditions for maximum social evolution. Social Statics was published seven years before Origin of Species.

    It's important to recognize that human biology has little to no influence on cultural evolution certainly for the last 5,000 years let alone the last 200. The human genome today has largely remained unchanged over that time span but human culture has changed by orders of magnitude and would be all but unrecognizable today by someone from just 200 years ago even though genetically we are the same.

    It is becoming increasingly apparent that in a few hundred years perhaps, humans might evolve completely beyond our biology. AFAIC there is no explanation for this transformation found in the work of Darwin but there is in Spencer's.

    On a side note, Spencer was an anti-Malthusian. His theory was that as population increases, division of labor and production increases leading to a slowing of population growth until a state of equilibrium and zero growth is reached. History has proven Spencer right. With freedom and wealth, people have fewer children. Population is a political problem resulting government malfeasance and social interventions.