The use of analogy in biology and economics from biology to economics, and back

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The use of analogy in the arts and sciences has a long and wonderful history. If I read this history correctly, analogy is mother to creativity. It seems to have been one of the ladders Newton used to gain access to the shoulders of his scientific giants. Analogy can be carried too far, as our early-century flirtation with Social Darwinism has proven. While some analogy has been made with basic pursuits (music from mathematics), it is more likely that the most common source of analogical inspiration is nature. Nature has supplied art, literature, music, engineering, biology, chemistry, physics (once called Natural Philosophy) and economics with suggestions that have advanced our understanding in these arenas. Most recently, population biology has spawned an entire field within strategic business modeling. A large professional society is now devoted to the connection between ecology and economics. Here I want to classify the analogical connections as I understand them between ecology and economics. The long history of theoretical development in economics and the deep, rich history of experimental ecology might be blended through analogy to display new insights in both fields. My aim is to develop an accounting framework for ecology that is so consistent with the economic framework that the two can be fruitfully combined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)471-488
Number of pages18
JournalStructural Change and Economic Dynamics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1997


  • Analogy
  • Biology
  • Economics
  • Input-output
  • Model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


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