Re: Cultural traits and vulnerability to memes

From: Steve Drew (
Date: Thu Mar 14 2002 - 22:09:39 GMT

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    Subject: Re: Cultural traits and vulnerability to memes
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    Hi Scott

    > Date: Thu, 14 Mar 2002 12:31:09 -0500
    > From: "Scott Chase" <>
    > Subject: Re: Cultural traits and vulnerability to memes

    > I'm not sure either Darwinian or so-called Lamarckian views apply to
    > cultural phenomenon. Humans and their brains are products of the
    > evolutionary process, where selection has played a major, though not
    > necessarily exclusive, role. Evolution is a fact. Evolution applies to
    > humans.

    True about evolution, though to my mind Lamarkianism is a cultural
    propagation theory and not, as he intended, a biological one.
    > Now when trying to force fit cultural phenomena into an evolutionary scheme,
    > that's where things could go astray. First off, can it be said that culture
    > evolves? Is cultural change actually evolution in its own right?

    A view might be that culture is the environment in which ideas change and
    evolve, and that the cultural environment changes as does the biological
    one, only far faster. This would give the appearance of change.

    >OK, I might
    > grant this for argument's sake. I kinda like Michael Tomasello's discussion
    > (in _The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition_) of dual inheritance and the
    > ratchet effect of a serial process involving cultural learning and
    > individual/collaborative creation for cumulative modification of artifacts.
    > Both innovation and imitation may be important. There could be a social
    > heredity, but what form(s) does it take?

    I thought that was why we were here :-)
    > Now human brains are indeed the product of evolution via selection (plus
    > perhaps some non-adaptive side-products or spandrels if you will). This is
    > not in doubt. The Darwinian view pretty much holds when looking at evolution
    > of humans. The problem is when we carry the Darwinian view over into the
    > sphere of sociocultural phenomenon. Do these phenomena evolve according to
    > the Darwinian (or even the Lamarckian) view?

    A good point. One other thought is that neither Darwin or Lamark considered
    inheritance going from father to son etc that occurs with ideas in
    > OK, for the sake of argument I might grant that a cultural Darwinism is
    > valid (Wilkins grins). The most contentious point would be, then, whether
    > there are units (whether internal, external or a little of both) known as
    > memes that are involved in the cultural evolutionary process. Are these
    > putative self-reproducing ideas, beliefs, concepts or whatever more than
    > some speculative Procrustean rubric for force-fitting human behavior beyond
    > the associated sociobiological shoe-horning.

    Don't know the answer to that. See earlier grin!.



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