Philadelphia Atheists Meetup Message Board Philosophy and Critical Thinking › Shermer - Why people believe weird things about money

Shermer - Why people believe weird things about money

George
george05
Philadelphia, PA
Post #: 123
Why people believe weird things about money
Los Angeles Times, January 13, 2008
By Michael Shermer

Evolution accounts for a lot of our strange ideas about finances.

Would you rather earn $50,000 a year while other people make $25,000, or would you rather earn $100,000 a year while other people get $250,000? Assume for the moment that prices of goods and services will stay the same.

Surprisingly -- stunningly, in fact -- research shows that the majority of people select the first option; they would rather make twice as much as others even if that meant earning half as much as they could otherwise have. How irrational is that?

stripey7
user 3095185
Philadelphia, PA
Post #: 39
Of course it's not irrational at all, because that would presuppose there's some "objective" rule for what people "should" want. It annoys me that Shermer insists on using philosophically dualist language like this, when he's supposed to be championing a scientific, i.e., materialist perspective.

And of course it's also obvious why people feel this way, even without having read the article, because I've given thought to such matters before in the context of considering what kind of society makes for the greatest harmony. Natural selection makes us seek status as the vehicle to reproductive success, so it's relative income that counts and not absolute income. This is why, even if you buy the argument that more inequality is the inevitable price to be paid for greater growth (and I don't buy it), it's futile to complain that people "should" be contented with a rising absolute standard of living even as social inequality increases.

My discussion of how a market economy can function without private property or class inequality appears in the essay "Making the Right to a Job More Than a Slogan," linked from my blog.

Eric Hamell
Gondwanaland -- http://stripey7.blogs...­
George
george05
Philadelphia, PA
Post #: 124
I agree, obviously there's nothing inherently irrational about wanting to be the wealthiest person in a group rather than the poorest person.
William S.
Sinuhe
Philadelphia, PA
Post #: 152
Shermer was interviewed today (1-16-08) on Radio Times. You can listen to it online.

Hour 2
In his new book The Mind of the Market author MICHAEL SHERMER uses evolution and evolutionary society to explain our complex relationship to money and business. Shermer is the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine and the Executive Director of the Skeptics Society.

http://www.whyy.org/9...­
stripey7
user 3095185
Philadelphia, PA
Post #: 40
I heard part of the interview and nearly all of his talk at the Ethical Society last night. He did allow that some behaviors aren't "really" irrational if you think of them in evolutionary terms. I maintain that it's strictly meaningless to speak of preferences as inherently rational or irrational, because that presupposes that there are objectively "right" desires, rather than simply desires that happen to exist. Rationality can only be defined in relation to a particular purpose; the root purpose of a behavior is simply a given and so can't be rational or irrational, since there's no deeper purpose in relation to which its rationality could be judged.

Eric Hamell
Gondwanaland -- stripey7.blogspot.com
George
george05
Philadelphia, PA
Post #: 126
Shermer was interviewed today (1-16-08) on Radio Times. You can listen to it online.

Here is a direct link to the Real Audio file:
http://www.whyy.org/r...­



He was also interviewed in 2006 about his book, Why Darwin Matters: The Case against Intelligent Design
10/13/2006
Hour 2
The case for evolution. We'll talk with MICHAEL SHERMER, author of the new book "Why Darwin Matters: The Case against Intelligent Design." Shermer is the founder of the International Skeptics Society and publisher of Skeptic Magazine. He is also the producer and co-host of the 13-hour Fox Family television series "Exploring the Unknown" and is a monthly columnist for Scientific American magazine and serves as the science correspondent for KPCC radio
Direct link to audio file:
http://www.whyy.org/r...­

He gave a book signing at the Ethical Society in 2006 as well.
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