Analogies are powerful and dangerous things

Behavioral and Brain Sciences 29 (4):350-351 (2006)
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The analogy between biological and cultural evolution is not perfect. Yet, as Mesoudi et al. show, many of the vaunted differences between cultural and genetic evolution (for example, an absence of discrete particles of cultural inheritance, and the blurred distinction between cultural replicators and cultural phenotypes) are, on closer inspection, either illusory or peripheral to the validity of the analogy. But what about horizontal transmission? We strongly agree with the authors that the potential for horizontal transmission of cultural traits does not invalidate an evolutionary approach to culture. We suggest, however, that it does require a different evolutionary treatment. (Published Online November 9 2006).



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