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Darwinism and Human Affairs Paperback – April, 1982
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Evolution is based on natural selection and survival of the fittest. The selection happens on the individual level, on the differences between individual phenotypes.
The author refutes the philosophical argument that Darwinism cannot be tested, and the creationist argument that macro- and micro-evolution are different processes.
Culture and evolution
Culture is a vehicle of the genes. Culture is the cumulative effect of inclusive-fitness-maximizing behaviour of all the deceased and living human beings, where `inclusive' means that any genetic relative socially available (offspring and others) is a potential avenue of genetic reproduction.
Cultural and organic evolutions are interdependent. The coupling between them is induced by the `hostile forces', which differentially favour variations and adjustments in human social behaviour in order to maximize reproductive success.
Cultural patterns of human sociality
Variations in cultural patterns are the result of reproductive strivings of competing and cooperating individuals living in different circumstances.
All societies operate as kinship systems with parental care, social learning and nepotism and where individuals are (and act as) maximally effective nepotists. Sociality is a consequence of individuals pursuing their genetic interests.Read more ›
The book offers a perspective similar to that of E.O. Wilson - who published similar works at around the same time.
I read it mainly in order to understand Richard's perspective on human culture from that era.
The book predates our modern understanding of cultural evolution and instead presents a view of culture based on DNA genes.
In a section titled: A comparison of organic and cultural evolution, Richard breaks cultural evolution down into inheritance, mutation, selection, drift and isolation. He then reviews existing literature relating to the modern perspective on cultural evolution citing the views of Dawkins, Durham, Cloak, Cavalii-Sforza, Feldman, Richerson and Boyd on the topic. This might all sound good. However, the section then goes on to dismiss this material, saying:
"regularity of learning situations or environmental consistency is the link between genetic instructions and cultural instructions which makes the latter not a replicator at all, but in historical terms a vehicle of the genetic replicators."
Having thus dismissed the Darwinian view of culture which does so much useful work in modern times, Richard offers in its place the idea that cultural information is a persistent part of the environment that is influenced and manipulated by genes. This is true - as far as it goes.Read more ›