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Pseudo-Science Masquerading as Science

Here’s a letter to WTOP Radio in Washington, DC:

A Georgetown professor interviewed during today’s 8am hour declared that New York City Mayor Bloomberg is “right” to use government to “coerce us” into eating healthier diets.  Such coercion allegedly is necessary because, humans having evolved during times when food was scarce, we are unable to control ourselves now that food is abundant.


If our genes distort our dietary choices, how can we be sure that they do not distort also our political choices?  Might it be that, humans having evolved in small tribal bands whose survival often depended upon deference to tribal elders, our genes prompt us today to put excessive trust in political leaders?  Might it be that we’re evolved to rely too readily today upon direction from charismatic kingpins consciously issuing commands rather than upon the impersonal and far more nuanced directions given by market prices, profits, and losses?

Science does indeed reveal that modern conditions differ greatly from those that shaped our evolution.  But it is irresponsible pseudo-science to leap from this fact to the conclusion that government must therefore exercise more control over individuals’ lives.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

Relatedly, see this wonderful essay from the Economist‘s man in Iowa, Will Wilkinson.