Journal Article

Reconsidering Cultural Selection Theory

G. K. D. Crozier

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 59, issue 3, pages 455-479
Published in print September 2008 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online July 2008 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/axn018
Reconsidering Cultural Selection Theory

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This paper examines conceptual issues that arise in applications of Darwinian natural selection to cultural systems. I argue that many criticisms of cultural selectionist models have been based on an over-detailed reading of the analogy between biological and cultural units of selection. I identify five of the most powerful objections to cultural selection theory and argue that none cuts to its heart. Some objections are based on mistaken assumptions about the simplicity of the mechanisms of biological heredity. Other objections are attributable, rather, to mistaken inferences from observations of biological subject matter to what is essential in natural selection. I argue that such features are idiosyncratic of biological systems, but not essential for natural selection. My arguments throughout are illustrated by examples from biological and cultural evolution, and counter-factual illustrations from the history of theoretical biology.

Introduction

Cultural Selection Theory

First Objection: Lamarckianism

Second Objection: Genotype–Phenotype Distinction

Third Objection: Common Hereditary Architecture

Fourth Objection: Biological Analogue for Cultural Units 6.1

Regarding strict analogues

6.2

Regarding the trait analogue

6.3

Regarding the virus analogue

Fifth Objection: Environmental Interaction

Conclusion

Journal Article.  9710 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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