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Evolutionary Paleontology for the Millions of Years, with Confirmation from 
Modern Evolutionary Biology, and, from Humanomics, Too

Dual Interest Theory (DIT) in Metaeconomics integrates across the biological, behavioral, and social sciences as well as philosophy, to especially include ethics. The image reflects the integration. The image works to bring evolutionary paleontology representing the evolved biology, over millions of years, of the Human brain (after Cory 1999; MacLean 1990) into an integration with the notion of Humanomics, Ethics and Virtues, and Dual Interest Theory (DIT) in Metaeconomics (a Humanomics with a theory) in consort with McCloskey (2006, 2010, 2016), and the synthesis in McCloskey and Carden (2020).  It also integrates with Multilevel Selection Theory from modern evolutionary biology (Wilson 2015).  And, for the details, see Lynne (2020).  The image depicts a cross section of the mammalian brain, especially the Human brain:


MacLean posited the triune brain theory, and Cory built on it to suggest the Conflict Systems Model.   What came to be the triune brain started with the earliest of life-forms leading to the reptilian core, and the self-preservation program, the source of the ego-based self-interest.   Later evolution brought the mammalian overlayer, and the affectional program, the source of the empathy-based other-interest. The final stage of evolution, and it continues, brought the executive program, which is the reflective mind part of the brain using the algorithmic mind part of the brain for the analytics, and, the self-command to balance the reptilian & mammalian, ego & empathy, self & other interest.


Balance is represented in homeostasis across the preservation & affectional programs, the self & other-interest --- a stable, peaceful, mentally healthy person, a balanced life (and, writ large, a viable  and healthy, balanced economy embedded in a viable and balanced community).  Homeostasis gives economic efficiency, peace (political economic stability), and, yes, happiness.  The ego & empathy, self & other-interest brain modules are joint,  interdependent, and nonseparable. The jointness shifts attention to maximizing the homeostatic own-interest, again, pointing to good balance in the dual interests, good balance in the joint self & other-interest, balance in ego & empathy, which takes mindful and substantive self-command. 

Integrating Cory, MacLean, McCloskey and, yes, Adam Smith


Connecting Cory and MacLean with McCloskey, and with Adam Smith, the most Primal Virtue  of Prudence is in the reptilian core. The Other Virtues of Faith, Hope, and especially Love in the mammalian overlayer, are brought into play with Temperance, Courage and Justice to bring the Prudence into line with the Ethic. As Adam Smith said, it was necessary to bring the arrogance of self-love down to something the other can go along with.  Adam Smith did Humanomics, being the first MetaEcon, seeing the key role of ethics (the moral sentiments) in tempering the pursuit of wealth, as in the jointness in the Wealth of Nations & Moral Sentiments (the two books for which Adam Smith is best known).  

McCloskey (2021, 2022) is an integration and elaboration on Humanomics, drawing on Smith (Vernon, not Adam) and Wilson (2015), the latter also integrated with Metaeconomics in Lynne (2020).  Also, McCloskey (2019) is relevant here, especially in the observation that Libertarian Economics wherein Single Interest Theory, SIT, in Microeconomics is carried to the extreme, focuses strictly on ego-based self-interest.  The focus is only on the self-preservation part, in the reptilian core of the brain, as in cold-blooded Wall Street trader!


So, especially in the Chicago School of Economics Libertarian Branch (Milton Friedman et al.): It does not see the dual nature of the Human, and, in general is opposed to any kind of ethical reflection coming out of empathy-with the other. It sees only the ego.  Said frame refuses to see the affectional program. The Libertarian Framing in effect denies the Neuroscience and Neuroeconomics research on the existence of mirror neurons in Humans, and many other mammals (first discovered in the macaque monkey). The mirror neurons are evolutionary evidence that many if not all mammals have the capacity for empathy-with the other (see Singer 2009), and, thus, the potential for evolving and operating on a shared ethic-with, the other. The shared ethic is the main theme in McCloskey and Carden (2020), which is a synthesis of McCloskey (2006, 2010, 2016), in the notion of the Bourgeois Deal (holding the shared ethic in a shared other-interest that worked for the other, including dignity and equality) leading to the Great Enrichment.

Integrating with Wilson


And from Wilson (2015,  p. 23), with framing from evolutionary biology, which also supports the dual nature of Humans:  “Selfishness (read ego-based groups) beats altruism within groups. Altruistic (read empathy-based) groups beat selfish groups. Everything else is commentary.” Well, yes, the Human has  a dual nature, one of selfishness & selflessness, ego-Me and empathy-We, so, yes, Wilson has it correct.  The novel by Wilson ( 2020), Atlas Hugged (not Shrugged!) in lighter terms, but built on the scientific foundation established in Wilson (2015), documents the emptiness of the SIT in Microeconomics construct. SIT does not have a defensible foundation in science (nor in ethics) on which to make the claim of self-interest being enough to give a viable, sustainable economic system.

Both the Individualism (I-only) and Collectivism (We-only) of

Behavioral and Social Science are Flawed


Drawing on the Epilogue in Wilson (2020),  The Science Behind Atlas Hugged, we can also connect Evolutionary Biology with the Me needs a We to Be question, with the answer being it is all about Me&We. As Wilson (2020, p. 443) clarifies, it is all about the need for theory that transcends both the historically scientific favorites, the first one on the favored "We", in a kind of collectivism at play:


Social commentators once found it very useful to analyze the behavior of groups by the same expedient used in analyzing the behavior of individuals. The group, like the person, was assumed to be sentient, to have a form of mental activity that guides action. Rousseau (1767) and Hegel (1807) were the early architects of this form of analysis, and it became so widely used in the 19th and early 20th centuries that almost every early social theorist we now recognize as a contributor to modern social psychology held a similar view.


So, in some sense the “We” has a being, the “We” doing things as a superorganism. The other main scientific frame has the “Me” doing everything without any sense of the presence of a "We." Wilson (2020) goes on to say regarding the "Me":


Methodological individualism dominates our neighboring field of economics, much of sociology, and all of psychology’s excursions into organizational theory. This is the dogma that all human social group processes are to be explained by laws of individual behavior – that groups and social organizations have no ontological reality – and that where used, references to organizations, etc. are but convenient summaries of individual behavior.


Wilson (2020, p. 444), goes on to reject both the group “We” and the individual “Me” frames of reference, calling for a new theory:


In the end, the tradition of Individualism fails for the same reason as the tradition of functionalism that it replaced. Both treat a given unit (groups in the case of functionalism, individuals in the case of individualism) as axiomatically the center of analysis. We need a theory that can identify the unit of functional organization, and therefore the center of analysis, on a case by case basis.

Duesenberry Had it About Right back in 1960

The statements about how mainstream economists only see the Me and how some other  social scientists, especially the sociologists, see only the We brought to mind the quip by Duesenberry (1960, p. 33):

Economics is all about how people make choices; sociology is all about how they don’t have any choices to make. 

Well, DIT fixed the problem by integrating the Me & We, integrating Economics & Sociology, integrating Neoclassical & Neoinstitutional Economics (see Lynne 2020, esp. Ch. 2). Also, the latter is the kind of Neoinstitutional Economics that itself is an integration of old Institutional and new (the version that acknowledges the key role of empathy) Behavioral Economics, not the kind that McCloskey (2022) correctly points (referred to as Northian et al) out is a distortion of what old Institutional Economics was all about, namely the We. One cannot use the notion of maximizing self-interest (Me-only)  to explain the evolution and content of the shared other-interest represented in an Institution, as the misplaced neoninstitutional economists that McCloskey (2022) identifies so do. 

Multilevel Selection Theory (MLTS) Integrates Well with DIT

Wilson (2015) suggests Multilevel Selection (MLS) Theory, or MLST, which integrates well with DIT.   In simplest of terms,  the multi-level logic of MLST is about  (Wilson 2020, p. 446):

… (the) logic repeats itself at every rung of a multi-level social hierarchy. What’s good for me can be bad for my family. What’s good for my family can be bad for my clan. What’s good for my clan can be bad for my nation. What’s good for my nation or corporation can be bad for Earth… small groups emerge as a fundamental unit of human social life and a major theme of Atlas Hugged. When small groups are appropriately structured (and this is a big when!), they come as close as we will ever get to a utopia.

As DIT also makes clear, unless the We is working to temper the Me, the Me destroys the We of the family.  The family destroys the clan.  The clan destroys the nation. The nation destroys the Spaceship. The corporation destroys both the nation and the Spaceship. The solution is to recognize, as in both MLST and in DIT, that empathy-with works at higher levels to temper the choices at lower levels, as in an empathy-with other-interest in the family tempering a person in the family, the shared other interest in the  clan (perhaps a religious organization) tempering the family, the shared other-interest in the US Constitution that is framed by empathy-with all tempering the clan (especially the political party), and the empathy-with Spaceship systems tempering the nation and the multi-national corporation.

Solving the Problem with the We Tempering the Me


So, where does it all start? How solve the problem?  Wilson (2020) suggests starting at the Spaceship level --- lots of conversation as favored by McCloskey would be ongoing among all the Travelers on the Spaceship --- made possible as DIT makes clear from empathy-with forming a shared other-interest among all Travelers.  (Wilson 2020, pp. 446-447) drawing on MLST and it fits well with DIT:

The only way to prevent the (destructive) effects of lower-level selection is to organize everything we do with the welfare of the whole Earth in mind. That makes the Earth sacred, which can be rendered in either religious or non-religious terms. The whole earth focus does not diminish the importance of the lower-level units. They remain essential but must be oriented toward the global common good to become part of the solution rather than part of the problem. It is essential for individuals ...  to form into groups ... for their own wellbeing and for efficacious action at a larger scale. And our existing institutions – our governments, religions, and corporations – can become part of the solution as soon as they imagine themselves as solid citizens of Earth.


Starting with the Spaceship is also consistent with thermodynamic reality (see Lynne 2020), which clarifies both the economy & community are embedded within the Spaceship system, and need to be in empathy-with said system.  Empathy-with forms a shared other interest at each of the “We” levels --- the family, the clan, the nation, the corporation, with overlapping shared other-interest among same  --- and, all of which must also contain common elements of shared other-interest in sustaining the Spaceship on which all Travel together. Think of a path 0M in Figure 1 for each of the family, the clan, the nation, and the corporation, as well as a path 0M for the Spaceship.  In every case, the “Me” is tempered by the “We” at every level, with overlapping shared other-interest across all levels, leading to balance in a joint Me&We.


And, as Wilson (2020) says, it does not have to be a religious frame, but it could be nudged by prominent and influential religious leaders. As a case in point, Pope Francis highlights the need to deal with the overuse and abuse of the Spaceship ecosystem and atmosphere, with far too much release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by consumers, industries, and countries:  Using religion and theology is another way to form a shared other-interest that sustains the system.


Both MLTS and DIT Acknowledge the Dual Nature of Human Nature


The fact a Human has a dual nature, with the "Me" more primal is the reason the "We" on the next level, the overlayer of the "Me" at the core, must temper that "Me." So, that is why MLST works, and the DIT representing it, well, it works too.   A "Me(I, Self-interest only)" theory like SIT in Micreconomics and the functionalist "We" theories like often found in Sociology, well, neither can work, because neither see the joint, interdependent, completely non-separable interplay of the  Me&We, the "&" working to make clear that each absolutely depends on, and influences,  the other.


So, as DIT fully acknowledges: The Me needs a We to Be, and, without a Me there is no We.  It is about finding good balance in the joint Me&We, as confirmed in biology, behavioral science, and in philosophy (and perhaps in religion too: See God is a MetaEcon? ) going at least back to Adam Smith as moral philosopher.





Cory, G.A., Jr.  The Reciprocal Modular Brain in Economics and Politics: Shaping the Rational and the Moral Basis of Organization, Exchange and Choice. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 1999.

Duesenberry, James. 1960. "Comment on An Economic Analysis of Fertility." In Demographic and Economic Change in Developed Countries, edited by Universities-National Bureau Committee for Economic Research. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Khachaturyan, Marianna and Lynne, Gary D. "Review of McCloskey, D. N. The Bourgeois Virtues:  Ethics for an Age of Commerce. Chicago, Il: The University of Chicago Press, 2006, 616 pp." Journal of Socio-Economics 39 (October 2010): 610-12.

Lynne, Gary D. Metaeconomics: Tempering Excessive Greed. Palgrave Advances in 

Behavioral Economics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.

MacLean, Paul. The Triune Brain in Evolution: Role in Paleocerebral Functions New York: Plenum, 1990.

McCloskey, Deirdre N. The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2006.

McCloskey, Deidre Nansen. Bourgeois Dignity:  Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2010.

McCloskey, Deidre Nansen. Bourgeois Equality:   How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2016.

McCloskey, Diedre N. Why Liberalism Works: How True Liberal Values Produce a Freer, More Equal, Prosperous World for All. New York: Yale University Press, 2019.

McCloskey, Deidre Nansen and Art Carden. Leave Me Alone and I’ll Make You Rich:  How the Bourgeois Deal Enriched the World. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2020.

McCloskey, Deidre Nansen. Bettering Humanomics:  A New, and Old, Approach to Economic Science. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2021.

McCloskey, Deidre Nansen. Beyond Positivism, Behavioralism, and Neoinstitutionalism in Economics. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2022. (Note: Because DIT also uses such terms, but defines each differently, see Neoinstitutionalism in Metaeconomics?).

Singer, T. 2009. "Understanding Others:  Brain Mechanisms of Theory of Mind and Empathy." In Neuroeconomics:  Decision Making and the Brain, edited by P. W. Glimcher, Camerer, C. F., Fehr, E. and Poldrack, R. A. San Diego: Academic Press.

Smith, Adam.  On the Nature and the Causes of the Wealth of Nations.  1776/789.

Smith, Adam.  The Theory of Moral Sentiments.  1759/1790.

Wilson, David Sloan. Does Altruism Exist?  Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others. New Haven, CN: Yale University Press, 2015.

Wilson, David Sloan. Atlas Hugged: The Autobiography of John Galt III (a Novel). Irvine, CA: Redwood Publishing, LLC, 2020.

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