Darwin on Wall Street
Forecasts & Strategies August 1998
“No other theory or concept ever imagined by man can equal in boldness and audacity this claim — that everything revolves around human existence — that all the starry heavens, that every species of life, that every characteristic of reality exists for mankind and for mankind along. It is simply the most daring idea ever proposed.”
— Michael Denton, Nature’s Destiny
I can’t think of a more depressing philosophy than that of Darwinian evolution as expressed by apologists Stephen J. Gould and Richard Dawkins.
According to them, life is a mindless perpetuation of the species, without meaning or design, just natural selection and survival of the fittest.
Man is nothing special. The creation of life did not have man in mind. Man is accidental and random, a descendant of “punctuated equilibrium.” There’s no God, no special creator, no life after death, no spiritual existence at all. There’s no beauty in life — it’s all random matter. There’s no free will, only material determinism.
It’s all in the genes, didn’t you know?
Not surprisingly, Darwin suffered from this blead outlook on life and was terribly unhappy at the end of his life. Prior to writing The Origin of Species, he delighted in reading poetry and Shakespeare, and listening to music.
Afterwards, however, he lost all interest. “But now for many years, I cannot endure to read a line of poetry: I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me. I have also almost lost any taste for pictures or music.” (The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, pp. 138-139)
The evolutionist view is pervasive; we even see it in economics and the financial world. “Today’s economy is a dog-eat-dog world; it’s a jungle out there, and only the fittest survive; the big corporations gobble up the weak competition.”
Economic Darwinism ignores the cooperative side of the economy, and the ability of weaker participants to survive and even thrive.
In the financial field, the efficient market theorists proudly declare: “The markets are random and unpredictable. You can’t beat the market, so why try?” Their investment technique is pretty boring stuff: Buy index funds, never trade, just buy and hold until retirement. It’s like watching paint dry.
A Better Alternative: Intelligent Design
Fortunately, there’s an alternative to Darwinian philosophy called “intelligent design,” and there’s growing support for this more upbeat theory of life, even among evolutionists.
One of the most fascinating books I’ve read recently is Nature’s Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe, by Michael J. Denton (Free Press, $27.50, buy at a discount through www.amazon.com).
Denton is a biologist at the University of Otago in New Zealand. He joins forces with the physicists who have demonstrated how the planet is uniquely formed to sustain life.
Moreover, Denton concludes, “the cosmos is uniquely fit for only one type of advanced intelligent life — Homo sapiens.” He demonstrates, for example, how the earth’s size and atmosphere are fit both for our size and dimension.
He writes eloquently about the unique features of man compared to other animals — our superior intelligence, vision, linguistic ability, and most interestingly, the dexterity of the hand. (A chimp can’t peel an apple, tie a knot, use a typewriter or thread a needle.)
Denton also points out how man is just the right size to handle fire. He also has an engaging chapter on water, and why humans and life in general couldn’t exist without it.
In one of his great books, Human Action (hardcover, $49.95, paperback, $24.95 available at www.lfb.org), the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises asserted correctly that man alsways acts purposefully and with design.
Human beings think, adopt values, make choices, are conscious, make mistakes and learn from experience. In the financial markets, humans invest with a specific purpose in mind, whether to earn income, make a capital gain or hedge their portfolio. Thus, all movements in stock prices are purposeful, and never random.
In sum, Darwinian evolution as a philosophy is an empty black box. It’s time sciencists and social thinkers look to “intelligent design” as a more consistent and more fulfilling concept of life.
Forecasts & Strategies
August 1998 issue