Cultural evolution and the variable phenotype

Biology and Philosophy 11 (3):357-375 (1996)
It is common in attempts to extend the theory of evolution to culture to generalize from the causal basis of biological evolution, so that evolutionary theory becomes the theory of copying processes. Generalizing from the formal dynamics of evolution allows greater leeway in what kinds of things cultural entities can be, if they are to evolve. By understanding the phenomenon of cultural transmission in terms of coordinated phenotypic variability, we can have a theory of cultural evolution which allows us to avoid the various difficulties with the elaboration of informational entities such as the cultural replicator, or meme. Such an account is a boon to the project of evolutionary epistemology since it confirms the presumption in favor of the general adaptiveness of culture, illuminating rather than obscuring the inherent intimacy of our relationship to (e.g.) our ideas.
Keywords evolutionary epistemology  cultural evolution  replicators  homeostasis
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DOI 10.1007/BF00128787
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