July 12, 2000

Do we need a Darwinian theory of cultural evolution? In one sense, certainly. It is obvious that there are patterns of cultural change-evolution in the neutral sense-and any theory of cultural change worth more than a moment's consideration will have to be Darwinian in the minimal sense of being consistent with the theory of evolution by natural selection of Homo sapiens. Our species name is well chosen, and it is culture that makes us the knowing hominid, so a minimally Darwinian theory of culture must hold that the phenotypic traits that make cumulative culture possible-mainly, language and the habits of sociality-evolved by natural selection, unaided by what I call skyhooks: saltations in Design Space that could not be the outcome of standard evolutionary mechanisms (Dennett, 1995). This minimal Darwinism is simply the denial of the..
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