Naïd Mubalegh: Nature as a rational space and the economic perspective(s) in evolutionary biology. Rationality in what sense, and at what cost?

Naïd Mubalegh is a PhD student in Philosophy of Science (Biology) at the University of Lisbon and the University Paris 1 Sorbonne, and currently a guest researcher at the Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES) at the University of Oslo. She investigates the relationship between economic theories and the development of evolutionary theory. She is interested, among others, in understanding how certain, often strictly defined, concepts of rationality have been transferred from economics to evolutionary biology. How has an utilitarian research method been so successful in describing and explaining evolutionary processes and biodiversity? What is left outside by such a perspective, and what happens when scientific models from biology influence economics in return?

Since Darwin, a certain concept of rationality has played a central role in the way nature has been represented in evolutionary biology. One can wonder whether Theodosius Dobzhansky's statement: «nothing makes sense in biology except in the light of evolution» could not be reformulated into «nothing makes sense in biology except in the light of rationality», since natural selection promotes traits that appear optimal because they maximize fitness in the same way as rationality decides by maximizing utility. However appealing and efficient the resort to rationality has been in Evolutionary Biology, it is worth remembering that it originated from particular subschools of political economy.

In this talk, we will address the following questions: Which economic perspectives and concepts of rationality have been the most influential with regard to evolutionary biology? By definition (unless it is omniscient and absolutely neutral), a perspective always implies an "off-screen". What is the "off-screen" of rationality in evolutionary biology and to what extent is it a product of the epistemological development of the field? What are the practical, epistemological and ontological implications of this configuration of evolutionary biology for the knowledge of nature itself, and in an interdisciplinary perspective? 

Published Oct. 9, 2020 3:13 PM - Last modified Oct. 13, 2020 8:59 AM