Hayek and Dennett on the design fallacy

Lynne Kiesling

Since we’re riffing off of Hayek today, I’ll take one of his most pithy and insightful quotes, from The Fatal Conceit:

The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.

I want to use that quote to tee up a video I’ve been meaning to share for some time — philosopher Daniel Dennett discussing evolution, and how the attempt to infer “intelligent design” in evolutionary processes reveals just how deeply the design fallacy runs in human cognition.

Why do humans have so much difficulty with emergence, with spontaneous/unplanned order? Why do so many people believe that ordered and coordinated outcomes must be intentionally designed?

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5 thoughts on “Hayek and Dennett on the design fallacy

  1. When I tried to discuss these ideas with Dennett years ago (I was a student of Alex Rosenberg & Larry Wright, two of leading written in the field of teleological explanation & the philosophy of Darwinian biology) is was clear that Dennett knew nothing of Hayek’s work, not even Hayek landmark Global Brain Theory work in _The Sensory Order_ (see Joaquin Fuster on this topic).

  2. Ironically, in the 1990s Dennett was still using biological species as examples of Platonic / linguistic natural kinds in his work on language, brain, intensionality and intentionality. Evidently, he’d never read David Hull’s work either.

    He’s come a long way.

  3. Dennett’s work on patterns and explanation is very similar to Hayek’s.

    Dennett could learn a lot if he’d read some Hayek, especially Hayek on free will, pattern prediction, and responsibility.

    My sense is that political he can’t bring himself to look at it.

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