The Cogwheels of Culture
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Culture evolves; in at least this much, there is agreement. The vexed question is how. We pass on cultural units — things, skills, beliefs, and so on — which leave behind a trail of gradual and cumulative changes. The sticking point is this: Is cultural evolution Darwinian? This hot-button topic is long on sneering and short on substance with people digging in for the long haul. Champions of Darwinism in culture like to describe their opponents as mushy humanists and soft-headed poets who, having overdosed on postmodernism, are prone to panic attacks whenever they hear the rattling of the saber of science. Not to be outdone, the opponents heap scorn on the entire enterprise of Darwinizing the social sciences and humanities and like to depict their rivals as overzealous scientists and pigheaded technophiles who, having overdosed on positivism, erratically swing the club of Darwinism at everything in sight. Amidst all the pugnacious hyperbole, writing about it makes you want to wear a safety helmet.
KeywordsBiological Evolution Cultural Evolution Cultural Artifact Modern Synthesis Epigenetic Inheritance
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