Journal Article

Memes Revisited

Kim Sterelny

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 57, issue 1, pages 145-165
Published in print March 2006 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online February 2006 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Memes Revisited

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In this paper, I argue that the adaptive fit between human cultures and their environment is persuasive evidence that some form of evolutionary mechanism has been important in driving human cultural change. I distinguish three mechanisms of cultural evolution: niche construction leading to cultural group selection; the vertical flow of cultural information from parents to their children, and the replication and spread of memes. I further argue that both cultural group selection and the vertical flow of cultural information have been important. More conjecturally, I identify a potential role for meme-based cultural evolution in the explanation of the ‘human revolution’ of the last 100 000 or so years, and defuse an important objection to that explanation.


Cultural groups

The cultural invention of adaptive complexes

Niche construction models

Dual inheritance


Memes or minds?


Journal Article.  8744 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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