Creationist Economics

Evolution is truly amazing.

The are two reasons I think this. Firstly, just look at the wonderfully diverse range of organisms to which it has lead. Elephants, dolphins, giant redwoods, kangaroos, scorpions, sharks, squid, salmonella, venus fly traps, honeybees and naked mole-rats. They are all stunning examples of what evolution has caused.

The second reason I find it amazing is that it is so simple:

  • An individual’s offspring will share similar traits with that individual
  • An individual with beneficial traits is more likely to have offspring
  • Therefore more beneficial traits are more likely to be passed on from one generation to the next than less beneficial ones

That is pretty much it and all you need to add is a bit of time.

A friend of mine disputed evolution recently, on the basis that the species we see today are just too complex to have come out about through such a process. This is how I thought about it. (This is probably why I don’t have many friends.)

Suppose that a particular species has a one year lifecycle and on average each new generation is about 0.001% better than the previous generation. It’s a very small amount – one one-thousandth of one percent better.

Over a period of 1000 years you would notice little difference – the current generation would be about 1% better than they were 1000 years ago. It’s very similar to compound interest – invest £1 for 1000 years at a rate of 0.001% and you will get £1.01 back at the end. Look at this though:

After 10,000 years it will be worth about £1.11
After 100,000 years it will be worth about £2.70
After 1,000,000 years it will be worth about £22,000
After 2,000,000 years it will be worth about £485 million
After 3,000,000 years it will be worth about £10.7 trillion
After 4,000,000 years it will be worth about £235 quadrillion

Back in terms of our evolutionary example, our species that improved at a thousandth of a percent per generation is 235 quadrillion times better than its ancestor of 4 million years ago whilst being virtually indistinguishable from its ancestor of a few thousand years ago. Pretty cool.

Of course, like my friend, not everyone believes in evolution. Some favour Creationism. In Creationism you assume that there is a supremely intelligent being who made a supremely brilliant strategy for the development of species at the start of things and everything worked out from that brilliant strategy.

Now, I can hear you all saying, “That rabbit has really lost it this time, what the hell is he talking about now? I was expecting some sexy economics shit not a biology lesson.”

I am coming to that. I am a big fan of something that has come to be known as evolutionary economics. It works like this:

Suppose you want to achieve a certain outcome over a period of time in an environment with many unknowns. One way of doing it would be to work out the perfect strategy at the start and then run with it. Evolutionary economics would suggest that a better way of doing it would be to continually monitor and adapt your strategy, keeping the things that are working well, and replacing the things that are working badly with new things. Some of the new things will work and they’ll be kept. Some of the new things won’t work and they’ll be binned and replaced. Perhaps some of the things that worked well a while ago will stop being beneficial later. That’s fine, they’ll be adapted too. By doing this, the strategy continually evolves, adapting to the successes and failures along the way in order to ultimately succeed.

I strongly believe that in a complex environment the very best way to achieve success is by continually reviewing and adapting strategy. I do not believe that the very best way to achieve success is to come up with a strategy at the start and never adapt it in spite of how well it does.

Some people do though and they’re called politicians. When the Conservatives won the last election they did so partly based on the promise that they could cut spending and also achieve economic growth. The economic growth though, for one reason or another, has not materialised.

Some people will say, “You big muppet, George Osborne! You said we’d have economic growth and we didn’t! Your strategy was all wrong!”

I don’t agree with this way of looking at things. Sure, he’s a muppet but we are talking about the deployment of a strategy in a complex environment. The behaviour of the UK economy is not easily predictable – a huge number of unpredictable factors influence it. It is complex. His failure is not in his initial strategy, it is in being unable to adapt his strategy based on how well it is actually doing.

Imagine you are watching a horse race and horse number 3 is in the lead. You might say, “I think horse number 3 will win this race.” It would be a fair prediction. Horse number 3 might then take a fence badly and be overtaken by horse number 5. You might then say, “I think horse number 5 will win this race.”

You give your best judgment at a particular point in time and if the situation changes, you adapt your judgment. A politician does not do that though. When horse number 3 was overtaken, a politician would still back horse number 3 because that was what they said first. Horse racing is a brutal industry – when horse number 3 fell at the next fence, broke its foot and was shot by a vet, the politician would still back it to win.

In contrast to evolutionary economics, I have developed my own term for this kind of thinking – Creationist Economics. It’s impossible to get everything perfect first time around but politicians it seems, believe their strategies represent some kind of intelligent design.

At last week’s Conservative Party conference the general economic theme seemed to be, “We must keep doing what we’re doing because you can’t borrow your way out of recession.” (That’s actually not really true. You can borrow your way out of recession you are just left with more debt afterwards. What you can’t do is cut your way out of recession.) Either way, I am moving away from my point. George Osborne, favouring Creationist Economics, refuses to accept that his strategy has not realised the growth that he forecasted and instead stands by his policies through what I can only interpet as a matter of faith.

Of course, George isn’t the only disciple of the church of Creationist Economics. The Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley has an idea to reform the Health Service. Because the communicated benefits of his policy turned out to lack any basis in fact he had to work hard on a campaign of misinformation. (This is always preferred by creationist economists over accepting their strategy was wrong which is considered blasphemy.) Lansley found a couple of facts that if taken out of context he could use to make his strategy look like a good one. He didn’t exactly lie but he did intentionally mislead people, which I think is every bit as bad.

Let’s have a look now at Theresa May. Theresa’s new policy is scrapping the Human Rights Act. Unsurprisingly, this has come in for a huge amount of criticism from all sides. Like Lansley before her, Teresa was forced into telling a fib in order to maintain her creationist ideals. See if you can spot the fib:

What Theresa said:

We all know the stories about the Human Rights Act… about the illegal immigrant who cannot be deported because, and I am not making this up, he had a pet cat.

What Theresa said minus fib:

“We all know the stories about the Human Rights Act… about the illegal immigrant who cannot be deported because, and I am making this up, he had a pet cat.”

Let me summarise my thoughts:

  • It is not possible within a complex environment to devise a perfect initial strategy.
  • It is therefore necessary to monitor and adapt a strategy in order for it to be ultimately successful.
  • Politicians deny these things as they are creationist economists

You may not have realised this but most likely you are an evolutionary economist. Suppose you are making your first ever Sunday roast and when making the gravy you decide how much corn flour to add and it all goes thick and lumpy. Next time you do it you learn from your failed strategy and add less corn flour. Congratulations, you are an evolutionary economist. Would you ignore the evidence and continue to put the same amount of corn flour in your gravy forever? If so then you are a creationist economist.

To me it seems clear that our politicians are not governing our country in a particularly efficient way. It’s not just the current government – the opposition parties would and do embrace their own creationist themes. My complaint is with no particular political party it is with our system. If a politician tried evolutionary economics the media would crucify them for “flip-flopping”. It is much more beneficial for a politician to just get it wrong to start with, never waver from being wrong and spend their time and effort on misleading people into thinking they are right.

And while this is the case, we will all have to endure poor political strategies and politicians will have lumpy gravy every Sunday.

RedEaredRabbit

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Homo Perfectus

I am an atheist. I believe in evolution. Some people aren’t atheists. Some people believe in something called “intelligent design”. Well I take issue with this theory. God or no God, there is nothing remotely intelligent about human design. The design of humans is crap. Look, here comes one now.

Homo Sapien

Hardly inspiring, is it? If I were God I would have designed something far better and I will now show you exactly what. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Homo Perfectus. Homo Perfectus is like Homo Sapien but with the following improvements:

Arms

Two arms is not enough. What about all those times when you need to carry three things? Homo Perfectus has four arms. In this way he or she can carry three things and still have an arm spare for mischief and petty crime.

Extra arms for carrying three or four things

Extra arms for carrying three or four things

Hands

With four arms comes four hands. The digits on the two new hands would be utility digits – each finger would perform its own special function, like the tools on a Swiss Army knife:

Left Hand

  • Fork
  • Corkscrew
  • Saw
  • Can opener

Right Hand

  • Knife
  • Bottle Opener
  • Fish Scaler
  • Screw Driver

(NB Homo Perfectus will never actually use the fish scaler.)

Utility fingers

Utility fingers

One of Homo Sapien’s most fundamental flaws becomes apparent when wanting to push a button which is more than four inches away from the end of their arm. Homo Perfectus would therefore have a metre long index finger on the upper left hand.

Extra long finger for pushing distant buttons

Extra long finger for pushing distant buttons

Feet

Homo Perfectus would have feet three times as long and five times as wide as Homo Sapien so that he or she could walk on snow without sinking into it.

Big feet to allow easy traversing of snowy ground

Eyes

Homo Perfectus can shoot powerful laser beams from his or her eyes and uses this ability for cooking food and shooting cats and dogs for recreational purposes.

Laser eyes for shooting cats and dogs

Laser eyes for shooting cats and dogs

Ears

Homo Sapien’s ears are useless for eavesdropping. Homo Perfectus solves this problem by having ears on the end of extendable tentracles, a bit like Mr. Tickle’s arms. The tentracles can be controlled such that if a private conversation is occurring across the room, Homo Perfectus would simply extend one or both tentracles until the ear(s) are within a few centimetres of the conversation, thus catching all the juicy details while the eavesdroppees are none the wiser.

Ears on tentracles for easy eavesdropping

Ears on tentracles for easy eavesdropping

Nose

Homo Perfectus has an elephant’s nose as elephants have the best noses.

Elephants clearly have the best noses

Elephants clearly have the best noses

Hair

Homo Sapien has hair in all of the wrong places. How often do you hear one say, “Brrrr, my armpit is cold!” Never!! But Homo Sapien continually suffers with cold ears, nose, fingers and toes. Homo Perfectus has hair on all of these, but nowhere else.

Hair in all the right places

Hair in all the right places

Wings

Homo Perfectus has wings on its head, thus making aeroplanes obsolete and thereby solving global warming problems.

Homo Perfectus takes to the skies

Homo Perfectus solves global warming

Miscellaneous

Lastly, Homo Perfectus is blue so he or she is camouflaged from sharks when swimming in the sea.

Homo Perfectus

Homo Perfectus

Conclusion

This thought experiment is more important than it first seems. If Homo Sapien is the design masterpiece of the greatest intellect in the universe then how did I improve upon it with such ease? It blows the whole intelligent design theory out of the water! I have disproved intelligent design! What a moment in our existence!

Oh wait. That’s been done a billion times already.

RedEaredRabbit

P.S. If you have other suggestions for the design of Homo Perfectus, I would love to hear them.