Reconsidering cultural selection theory

Abstract
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 CiteULike    Connotea    Del.icio.us    What's this?
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