Does culture evolve by means of Darwinian selection? The lessons of Candide’s travels

Does culture evolve by means of Darwinian selection? The lessons of Candide’s travels.

 

Does culture evolve by means of Darwinian selection? The lessons of Candide’s travels

  1. Dominique Guillo

  1. Centre Jacques Berque (USR 3136, CNRS-MAE)
  1. Dominique Guillo, Centre Jacques Berque (USR 3136, CNRS-MAEE), 35, avenue Tarik Ibn Ziad, 10000 Rabat, Maroc Email: dominiqueguillo@yahoo.fr

Abstract

The meaning of the concept of natural selection undergoes important changes when it circulates, through the use of analogies, between the realms of biological and cultural phenomena. These changes are not easily detected, but they are unavoidable. They have to do with differences between the properties of cultural phenomena and those of biological phenomena: in particular, the absence of the equivalent of a Hardy–Weinberg law for culture. These differences make it necessary to translate the concepts of classic population genetics into the language of transmission. This translation enables the theorists discussed here to build a unitary general theory of evolution (GTE) based on analogies between biological and cultural evolution, and at the same time to single out their differences. But the unity and the rigor of this theoretical approach are merely apparent. The concept of selection as it is defined here loses, in its three spheres of application – GTE, culture but also biology – the meaning and explanatory power it has in classic population genetics. This means that the mechanism of Darwinian selection cannot be considered as a universal algorithm that is valid for both biological and cultural phenomena alike.

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