The central “truth” of [the social sciences] is that nature, especially that of humankind, is nice and that people are designed to do things that, all in all, favor the survival of their species. Hence people could never be equipped by nature with instincts to kill other people. This idea comes from the Bambi school of biology, a Disneyesque vision of nature as a collection of moralistic and altruistic creatures. It admires nature for its harmony and beauty of form and for its apparent “balance” or even cooperativeness. It admires the deer for its beauty and fleetness, and it grudgingly admires the lion for its power and nobility of form. If anything is really wrong with us, it explains, it is a sociocultural problem that we can fix by resocializing people. It is not a biological problem.
—Michael P. Ghiglieri, 1999
“Equilibrium” models provide the foundation of our social sciences, our economic and political ideals. However, evolution theory tells us that these models are wrong; social systems do not tend towards equilibria—they tend towards oligarchy and collapse. We only have to observe ourselves, as we destroy any chance for our species to exist on this planet, and as the rich monopolize political power, to realize that these hopes for spontaneous equilibria are false. Where did equilibrium thinking come from?
The origins of equilibria thought in our present society can be traced back to the philosophy of two men: Rene Descartes (1596-1650) and Isaac Newton (1642-1727). Descartes has been called the “Father of Modern Philosophy” for good reasons. Descartes claimed that the mind (or soul) is nonmaterial and does not follow the laws of nature. The idea that the mind is separate from the body became known as “Cartesian Dualism” and provided the philosophical foundation for our existing social sciences and political system:
“There is the deeply embedded dominance of two strands of Cartesian thought in the social sciences: the fixed idea that there is a huge gulf between humans and other animals; and the belief that body and mind are separate rather than one and the same, which makes possible the implicit belief that biological evolution has to do with the body rather than the mind.”—Jerome H. Barkow, 2006
Isaac Newton is considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived. His principles of mechanics provided the inspiration to the forerunners of our modern social sciences. Newton’s mechanical equilibrium was copied metaphorically into our economic and political theories:
“The metaphors of political liberalism—like those of neoclassical economics—are clearly Newtonian. The various political particles—interest groups, electoral parties, coalitions, NGOs and contending state organs—all act and react on one another. Each particle tries to maximize its own utility. But because the particles are all relatively small, the political bourse remains competitive, the different demands tend to countervail each other, and the result converges to the least harmful political equilibrium.”—Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler, 2009
Beginning with Newton, some of the earlier influences on economics were Quesnay, Voltaire, Montesquieu, DuPont de Nemours, Turgot, Marquis de Condorcet and especially Adam Smith (1723-1790) through his “Wealth of Nations.” Indeed, Smith’s “invisible hand” became the flagship of equilibrium thinking.
Influential in politics were John Locke 1632-1704) with his “Second Treatise of Government,” Bernard Mandeville (1670-1733) through his “Fable of the Bees,” Baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755) for his theory of separation of powers and social Darwinism.
The utopian thinkers Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Henri de Saint-Simon were instrumental in establishing the Disneyesque nature of our social sciences. Aguste Comte (1798-1857) is the founder of sociology and his theories of sociocultural evolution—not biological evolution—created the paradigm of modern social sciences.
All of our founding ideas must be rethought. Even the physical conditions that made our society possible are now gone. We will either invent a new social world or nature will invent a one for us.