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Darwin-L Message Log 1:243 (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.


<1:243>From TREMONT%UCSFVM.BITNET@KUHUB.CC.UKANS.EDU  Tue Sep 28 19:13:29 1993

Date: Tue, 28 Sep 1993 16:56:23 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Elihu M. Gerson" <TREMONT%UCSFVM.BITNET@KUHUB.CC.UKANS.EDU>
Subject: Re: Cultural evolution and heritability
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

Griffiths mis-takes my point about developmental systems. When I said
there's more to culture than the socialization of children, I meant
that explaining the properties of individuals is not the point,
because that is not what anthropology and sociology are about. Nor
is cultural evolution a matter of individual performances. Rather,
it is a matter of institutionalized or conventional or standardized
performances.

We don't explain cross-cultural differences in table manners by pointing
to the way individuals learn table manners. How does developmental
systems theory (which is great becasue it stresses the interactional
and processual character of things) help us explain why Americans
switch forks from hand to hand, and Europeans don't? Make up a scenario
just to see of it can be done at all. Where's the developmental
resource here?

I also don't understand Griffiths' suggestion that we "get trees
(or reticulate diagrams) for cultural characters, and then map them onto
trees/diagrams for more conventional characters"  Suppose, for
example, that people with big noses tended to refrain from eating pork.
Is that an example of what's meant?

Elihu M. Gerson
Tremont Research Institute
458 29 Street
San Francisco, CA 94131
415-285-7837  tremont@ucsfvm.ucsf.edu

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