Evolution, Cultural Evolution, and Epistemic Optimism

Alberto Acerbi. Cultural Evolution in the Digital Age. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 272pp. ISBN: 9780198835943. Hugo Mercier. Not Born Yesterday: The Science of Who We Trust and What We Believe. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 384pp. ISBN: 9780691178707

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. 1.

    Compare Acerbi: "misinformation can travel wide, far, and long, as it is designed, intentionally or unintentionally, exactly to do this, as it does not need to be constrained by reality. We are not sensitive to an abstract notion of truth, but to various cues that point to the importance of the content and which may be associated only on average with truthfulness." (CEDA 184).

  2. 2.

    Notably, Sperber et al. (2010), Mercier and Sperber (2017).

  3. 3.

    For more on the commonalities and differences of these approaches, see: Sterelny (2017).

  4. 4.

    Probably for good reason, given the longstanding critiques of Sterelny (2001; 2018).

  5. 5.

    For instance, Baumard (2016); Morin (2016); Mercier and Sperber (2017); Boyer (2018).

  6. 6.

    It should be said that Mercier’s characterization of reflective beliefs draws upon Sperber’s (1997) characterization of the distinction. It is also related to a charactersation of reasoning and argumentation, especially their notion of reflective conclusions, defended in their joint work (Mercier and Sperber 2017). In both, it is claimed that there are dedicated mechanisms for generating intuitive beliefs (or ‘data-base beliefs’ in the language of Sperber (1997)) and reflective beliefs. The latter are (as far as I can tell) taken to be the exclusive output of metarepresentational mechanisms (Sperber 1997passim; Mercier and Sperber 2017, 145-153). As I note below, in NBY, Mercier does provide many details of the cognitive picture behind the intuitive/reflective distinction, instead emphasizing the potential behavioral implications. But it would be fair to assume that similar adaptationist and metarepresentational assumptions are motivating his claims.

  7. 7.

    This ‘majority illusion is a phenomenon similar to the famous ‘friendship paradox’; the seemingly paradoxical claim that on average, your friends have more friends than you do (Feld 1991).

  8. 8.

    https://time.com/5620936/donald-trump-revolutionary-war-airports/.

References

  1. Banerjee AV (1992) A simple model of herd behavior. Q J Econ 107(3):797–817

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Baumard N (2016) The Origins of Fairness: How Evolution Explains our Moral Nature. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  3. Boyer P (2018) Minds Make Societies: How Cognition Explains the World Humans Create. Yale University Press, New Haven

    Google Scholar 

  4. Centola D, Willer R, Macy M (2005) The emperor’s dilemma: a computational model of self-enforcing norms. Am J Sociol 110(4):1009–1040

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Feld SL (1991) Why Your Friends Have More Friends Than You Do. Am J Sociol 96:1464–1477

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Goldberg A, Stein SK (2018) Beyond social contagion: associative diffusion and the emergence of cultural variation. Am Sociol Rev 83(5):897–932

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Golub B, Jackson MO (2010) Naïve learning in social networks and the wisdom of crowds. Am Econ J Microecon 2(1):112–149

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Holman B, Bruner J (2017) Experimentation by industrial selection. Philosophy Sci 84:1008–1019

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Hung AA, Plott CR (2001) Information cascades: replication and an extension to majority rule and conformity-rewarding institutions. Am Econ Rev 91(5):1508–1520

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Kiesling E, Günther M, Stummer C, Wakolbinger LM (2012) Agent-based simulation of innovation diffusion: a review. CEJOR 20:183–230

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Lerman K, Xiaoran Y, Xin-Zeng W (2016) The “majority illusion” in social networks. PLoS ONE 11(2):e0147617

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. List C, Pettit P (2004) An epistemic free-riding problem? In: Catton Philip, Macdonald Graham (eds) Karl popper: critical appraisals. Routledge, London, pp 128–158

    Google Scholar 

  13. Mayo-Wilson C (2014) Reliability of testimonial norms in scientific communities. Synthese 191:55–78

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Mercier H, Sperber D (2017) The Enigma of Reason. Harvard University Press, Cambridge

    Book  Google Scholar 

  15. Mohseni A, Williams CR (2019) Truth and conformity on networks. Erkenntnis. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10670-019-00167-6

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Morin O (2016) How Traditions Live and Die. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  17. Nguyen CT (2018) Echo chambers and epistemic bubbles. Episteme. https://doi.org/10.1017/epi.2018.32

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. O’Connor C, Weatherall JO (2019) The misinformation age: how false beliefs spread. Yale University Press, New Haven

    Book  Google Scholar 

  19. O’Connor C, Weatherall JO (2020) Conformity in scientific networks. Synthese. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-019-02520-2

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Sperber D (1997) Intuitive and reflective beliefs. Mind Language 12:67–83

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Sperber D (2001) Conceptual tools for a natural science of society and culture. Proc British Acad. 111:297–317

    Google Scholar 

  22. Sperber D, Clément F, Heintz C, Mascaro O, Mercier H, Origgi G, Wilson D (2010) Epistemic vigilance. Mind Lang 25:359–393

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Sterelny K (2001) Explaining Culture: A Naturalistic Approach, by Dan Sperber. Mind 110:845–854

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Sterelny K (2017) Cultural evolution in California and Paris. Stud History Philos Biol 62:42–50

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Sterelny K (2018) Why reason? Hugo Mercier’s and Dan Sperber’s The Enigma of Reason: A New Theory of Human Understanding. Mind Lan 33:502–512

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Weisberg M (2013) Simulation and Similarity. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Book  Google Scholar 

  27. Zollman KJS (2010) The epistemic benefit of transient diversity. Erkenntnis 72:17–35

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Funding

Funding was provided by Leverhulme Trust (Grant No. ECF-2018-005), and the Isaac Newton Trust (Grant No. G101655).

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Andrew Buskell.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Buskell, A. Evolution, Cultural Evolution, and Epistemic Optimism. Acta Biotheor (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10441-020-09384-x

Download citation