An Excerpt from Michael Shermer’s The Mind of the Market

One view that I am writing against in this book, ironically, is the belief that Darwin and the theory of evolution have no place in the social sciences, especially in the study of human social and economic behavior. Whereas scientists are up in arms about attempts to teach creationism and Intelligent Design in public school biology classrooms (see my book Why Darwin Matters), and are distraught by the dismal state of science education and the lack of acceptance of Darwin’s theory (less than half of Americans believe that humans evolved)11, most scientists — especially social scientists — have resisted with the emotional intensity of a creationist any attempts to apply evolutionary thinking to psychology, sociology, and economics. The reason for this resistance — understandable at the time — was the equation of evolutionary theory with Social Darwinism and especially the extreme hereditarian views that led to enforced sterilization of the mentally retarded in America, and to the Nazi eugenics program that led to the Holocaust. As a consequence, post-World War Two social scientists steered a wide course around any attempts to employ evolutionary theory to the study of human behavior, and instead focused almost exclusively on socio-cultural explanations.

A second view that I am writing against is the theory of Homo economicus, which holds that “Economic Man” has unbounded rationality, self-interest, and free will, and that we are selfish, self-maximizing, and efficient in our decisions and choices. When evolutionary thinking and modern psychological theories and techniques are applied to the study of human behavior in the marketplace, we find that the theory of Homo economicus — which has been the bedrock of Traditional Economics — is often wrong or woefully lacking in explanatory power.

More here.