The evolution of culture (or the lack thereof): mapping the conceptual space
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This short essay is based on a lecture that I gave at short notice on a subject in which I am by no means an expert. The combination of lack of expertise and time for preparation, created an unexpectedly unique opportunity for thinking outside the box. I decided not to try to read up (as there was no time in any case) but instead to organize the little that I already knew about cultural evolution in a systematic schema—I attempted to create a scaffolding, on which I could hang everything I knew about cultural evolution, and hopefully, everything I might ever discover about cultural evolution in the future. I considered three dimensions of the study of cultural evolution, namely (i) the phenomenon of cultural evolution, (ii) production of knowledge in the field of cultural evolution, and (iii) the consequences or applications of an understanding of the evolution of culture.
Keywordcultural evolution extended phenotype conceptions of culture biological evolution genetic predisposition
My research is supported by generous grants from the Department of Science and Technology, Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Environment and Forests and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Government of India. I thank the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin for providing an excellent intellectual environment for out-of-the-box thinking.
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