Politics in the Age of Biology
April 29, 2013
Academic Building A G008, 5:00 PM
Evolutionary and biological approaches are increasingly being used in the social sciences for both theory development and empirical studies of behavior. But how have these new approaches influenced political science? I will outline the utility of an evolutionary approach to the key challenges for political science and international relations in the 21st century, with examples of the importance of evolution and biology from across the three major levels of analysis: the individual level (evolutionary and cognitive psychology of judgment and decision-making); state level (organizational behavior and population dynamics); and interstate level (war and international relations theory).
Dominic Johnson received a DPhil from Oxford University in evolutionary biology, and a PhD from Geneva University in political science. Drawing on both disciplines, he is interested in how new research on evolution, biology and human nature is challenging theories of international relations, conflict, and cooperation. He has published two books. “Overconfidence and War: The Havoc and Glory of Positive Illusions” (Harvard University Press, 2004) argues that common psychological biases to maintain overly positive images of our capabilities, our control over events, and the future, play a key role in the causes of war. “Failing to Win: Perceptions of Victory and Defeat in International Politics” (Harvard University Press, 2006), with Dominic Tierney, examines how and why popular misperceptions commonly create undeserved victories or defeats in international wars and crises. His current work focuses on the role of evolutionary dynamics, evolutionary psychology, and religion in human conflict and cooperation. For the 2012-2013 academic year Dominic is a senior fellow at the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, co-leading a residential research team of scientists and theologians on the implications of new research in evolution and human nature for our understanding of religion.
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