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Cultural Evolution Exists
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9780226520438 A very fertile area of evolutionary science is the understanding and modeling of human culture. But it’s hard, which is why my aspiration is to be an evolutionary geneticist in a more classical sense. Not only is it hard, but people don’t appreciate it, because they think they understand “culture.” Robert Boyd and Peter Richerson’s The Origin and Evolution of Cultures is an excellent introduction (with Not by Genes Alone for a more popular audience), but Alex Mesoudi’s Cultural Evolution: How Darwinian Theory Can Explain Human Culture and Synthesize the Social Sciences is a more recent survey which I think is very worthwhile. 0226712842 Complementary to the modelers, who draw from classical genetic frameworks (going back to Cultural Transmission and Evolution by Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman), are the cognitive anthropologists, represented by Dan Sperber and his colleagues (Explaining Culture: A Naturalistic Approach). Another way to look at this is that it is cultural anthropology without the Post-Modern Voodoo. In other words, it strives for disciplinary relevance through a fidelity to reality, rather than political and social impact.

This is all to highly recommend you read an excellent post on cultural evolution, Why Cultural Evolution Is Real (And What It Is). I don’t link to blogs much because it is usually more useful to read the paper, or the book, but in this case I think the writer really reduced the essentials of the field down to a manageable extent. Hopefully it will encourage readers to pursue their own avenues of inquiry.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Cultural Evolution