Friday, April 24, 2009

Two bloggingheads worth listening to this week. on evolution and economics

There were two bloggingheads this week that struck me as interesting. First there is a nice talk by two economists comparing modern thoughts on economics to classical to keynesianism to monetary policy to their own new ideas stemming out of the current economy. They bring up some points that I've been thinking about but haven't been able to express; like just because high interest rates stems off investment does this have to imply that low interest rates encourage it?

Then there is a discussion on evolution with Robert Wright (the owner of bloggingheads) and Joan Roughgarden (the author of The Genial Gene). Note that this is not a debate on whether Darwinism is true - that is accepted as a given. What this is is a debate on how much proof each theorized evolutionary mechanism requires, with Wright taking the position that evolutionary theories can't be proven with the same rigor as the rest of science so we should accept theories that sufficiently explains the data. Where as Roughgarden takes the position that there is no excuse for lowering the bar and that at the minimum you must come up with plausible competing theories and then apply rigor and statistics to determine which is more likely.

Roughgarden appears to be a controversial figure in many places on the web and for some reason receives a lot of animosity from blog commenters. I don't know if she has made other comments to earn this disrespect but in this conversation is both interesting and reasonable (and as far as I'm concerned she is also right).

In comparing these two conversations I wonder if I am engaging in an internal contradiction. From the first conversation I am sympathetic to the argument that applying statistical models to econometrics can be meaningless where as in the second conversation I am sympathetic to the argument that applying statistical models to evolutionary mechanisms is necessary.

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