In this week’s episode, EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomed back 2015’s most popular guest, Matt Ridley, to talk about his new book, The Evolution of Everything. Their wide-ranging conversation left me with a lot more questions than answers, which I think is a hallmark of a great conversation. Still, I’m now passing along some of things I’ve continued to wonder about to you.

Give some thought to the prompts below, and let us know your thoughts in the comments. You keep us learning and inspired. As always, we love to hear from you.


1. The idea of evolution is often associated with progress…But should it be? And more particularly, does morality actually make progress, or does it instead simply adapt itself to people’s current attitudes? If the latter, where do those attitudes come from?

2. To what extent does Ridley successfully make the case that his is an “anti-elitist” message?

3. This is a big one, and one that Roberts and Ridley disagree on…So we want to know what you think. Could mankind have become as moral as it is today absent the historical influence of religion? Make your case.

4. Roberts asks Ridley (with a hint of exasperation?) why their (free-market) ideas are so unpopular if good ideas emerge so naturally? How does Ridley reply, and how convincing is he? What else can you think of that might account for the unpopularity of capitalism?

5. At the end of the conversation, Ridley calls himself “a free-market anti-capitalist.” Is that an oxymoron? How would Ridley explain the term?