Julian Huxley on biological and cultural evolution (a must see)

From: Scott Chase (osteopilus@yahoo.com)
Date: Thu 14 Apr 2005 - 05:17:58 GMT

  • Next message: Bill Spight: "Re: Durkheim redux"

    In his essay "Man's place and role in nature" which Julian Huxley first presented as a paper at a conference in 1954 he wrote (pages 44-45):

    [JH] "Biological evolution depends on natural selection, which was made possible when matter became capable of self-reproduction and self-variation. Psycho-social or cultural evolution depends on cumulative tradition, which was made possible when mind and its products became capable of self-reproduction and self-variation." [JH]

    And the essential difference between this quote and Dawkins arguing for replicators in the biological and cultural realms in _The Selfish Gene_ would be? Sounds like he's talking about something close to a cultural replicator to me at least. And he coins a term
    "noogenetics" on page 47 for "the study of how [noetic patterns] are transmitted and how they change and evolve in time".

    In a subsequent essay "Evolution, cultural and biological" we have the coup de grace. Huxley claims his crown with the following Tyson punch (page 73):

    [JH] "A culture consists of the self-reproducing or reproducible products of the mental activities of a group of human individuals living in a society. These can be broadly divided into artifacts- material objects created for carrying out material functions; socifacts- institutions and organizations for providing the frammework of a social or political unit and for maintaining social relations between its members; and mentifacts- mental constructions which provide the psychological framework of a culture and carry out intellectual, aesthetic, spiritual, ethical or other psychological functions." [JH]

    Stick a fork in it. It's done! Huxley is gracious enough to credit Bidney on page 61 with the terminological triad of artifact, socifact and mentifact that he uses.

    Aunger uses the term "mentifacts" in his book _The Electric Meme_ (hardcopy, page 30), but I see no mention of Bidney nor Huxley or Huxley's theoretical system of "noogenetics". Such a shame. He's not alone in his omission.

    If we grant priority should we be changing the name to noogenetics? Granted Huxley's coinage stems
    *explicitly* from Teilhard, but Huxley seems to be driving at roughly the same thing that Dawkins and others looking at memes have. I'd call him a proto-memeticist at least. And his grandfather was the Bulldog no doubt!

    above essays found in Julian Huxley's _Knowledge, Morality & Destiny_ (1957. Mentor Book. New York)

    __________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? Yahoo! Small Business - Try our new resources site! http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/resources/

    =============================================================== This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Thu 14 Apr 2005 - 05:35:28 GMT