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Darwin-L Message Log 1:177 (September 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.


<1:177>From John_Wilkins@udev.monash.edu.au  Sun Sep 19 22:38:24 1993

Date: Mon, 13 Sep 1993 11:04:32 +0000
From: John Wilkins <John_Wilkins@udev.monash.edu.au>
Subject: Cultural evolution
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

Reply to:
     Cultural evolution
J. Luke Matthews <LUKEMATT@macc.wisc.edu>noted:
it's interesting how the name Lamarck comes up anytime the word
'intentionality'
comes up when people talk about evolution. Changes in culture,
society aren't
different from changes in the non-human parts of the universe...their's plenty
of intentionality out there too...after all (and this is admittedly an
exaggeration) one reason there are no jellyfish on mountaintops is because
jellyfish just hate montane environments. Animals and plants, monera, protista,
and whatever else are squirming around out there do have some capacity to make
some (perhaps severely limited) choices.

And of course, there's plenty of irrational and nonrational nonintentionality
among us ever so sapient humans.

I reply:
Indeed. The existence of a "rational" choice (that is, an actual decision, as
opposed to game-theoretic descriptions of selection like Maynard Smith's and
Dawkins') merely adds more variation to fuel selection. Unless it is assumed
that "striving" somehow determines the success of the variation (the
neo-Lamarckian assumption), then the fact that a cultural variant arose from a
conscious decision to solve a problem is of no relevance to an evolutionary
model of cultural change, *even of science*, any more than artificial selection
somehow works differently to natural selection for the same reason (artificial
selection is a subset of natural selection).

John Wilkins - Manager, Publishing
Monash University, Melbourne Australia
Internet: john_wilkins@udev.monash.edu.au
Tel: (+613) 565 6009

Monash and I often, but not always, concur

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