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Culture and the Evolutionary Process Paperback – June 15, 1988

ISBN-13: 978-0226069333 ISBN-10: 0226069338 Edition: 0002-

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 340 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 0002- edition (June 15, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226069338
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226069333
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,405,339 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jen Badham on March 18, 2012
Richerson and Boyd present the same argument in (at least) two books. Culture and Evolutionary Process is the earlier mathematical treatment. Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution is the later nonmathematical version, though it is informed by the same mathematical models as the earlier work. I am reviewing them together because the key concepts are the same, I read them almost together, and which version you prefer will probably depend on your background.

The core argument has several elements. First, culture constrains and shapes human behaviour (social scientists may be surprised that this is not immediately evident to all). Second, that the way that culture spreads can be understood using mathematical models based on evolutionary principles: competition between different ideas and behaviours (social norms) spread through inheritance from cultural parents (parents, teachers, social leaders). Importantly, this means that culture can evolve relatively quickly, allowing populations to adapt, but can also persist within a population even where the particular idea is no longer appropriate. Finally, the authors argue that the importance of culture for humans has led to greater fitness of genetics that favour culture (eg language facilitation), which has in turn supported a greater role for culture and further genetic pressure and so on.

In many ways, Culture and Evolutionary Process is the easier book, particularly if you are comfortable with mathematics. The mathematics is not hard, just very long and extremely tedious, particularly as the authors have attempted to make it accessible to nonmathematicians.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Matt Walsh on December 13, 2012
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This book is a classic of dual-inheritence theory concepts and the evolution of cultures and information transmission. A must have for cultural anthropologists and anyone interested in evolutionary concepts in archaeology.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tim Tyler on April 21, 2013
This book was published in 1985. It is the best book on cultural evolution from the 1980s. It builds on top of earlier work by Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman, who had outlined a similar approach, in less detail in 1981. Boyd and Richerson do a better job than previous authors did of placing their material in its historical context, and offered a better review of other related material.

However, the book has quite a few problems:

It is full of densely-presented mathematical models. I think that these hinder more than they help. Maybe some people will be impressed by them, but I'm not really among them.

The book introduces terminology for cultural evolution. Much of this has not dated well. It uses the term "guided variation" - where, these days, most people would say "directed mutation". The book uses the term "biased transmission", whereas these days we would just say "cultural selection" or just "selection". Hardly anyone uses the term "biased transmission" these days. The book uses the term "cultural parents" and the term "cultural offspring" - but these are not used refer to memes, but rather to their associated hosts. This does not seem like good terminology to me.

The book is almost entirely free of symbiology. This is unfortunate, since any sensible modern theory of cultural evolution must necessarily be heavily based on symbiology. They do mention the concept at one point. They say:

"Horizontal transmission is analogous in some ways to the transmission of a pathogen and Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman have used epidemiological models as a starting point for their development of theory.
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