Advertisement

Biological Theory

, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 360–375 | Cite as

The Pleasures and Perils of Darwinizing Culture (with Phylogenies)

  • Russell D. Gray
  • Simon J. Greenhill
  • Robert M. Ross
Article

Abstract

Current debates about “Darwinizing culture” have typically focused on the validity of memetics. In this article we argue that meme-like inheritance is not a necessary requirement for descent with modification. We suggest that an alternative and more productive way of Darwinizing culture can be found in the application of phylogenetic methods. We review recent work on cultural phylogenetics and outline six fundamental questions that can be answered using the power and precision of quantitative phylogenetic methods. However, cultural evolution, like biological evolution, is often far from treelike. We discuss the problems reticulate evolution can cause for phylogenetic analyses and suggest ways in which these problems can be overcome. Our solutions involve a combination of new methods for the study of cultural evolution (network construction, reconciliation analysis, and Bayesian mixture models), and the triangulation of different lines of historical evidence. Throughout we emphasize that most debates about cultural phylogenies can only be settled by empirical research rather than armchair speculation.

Keywords

Bayesian models borrowing cultural evolution gene tree phylogenetics reconciliation analysis reticulation word tree 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Aberle DF (1961) Matrilineal descent in cross-cultural comparison. In: Matrilineal Kinship (Schneider D, Gough K, eds), 655–670. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  2. Atkinson QD, Gray RD (2006) How old is the Indo-European language family? Progress or more moths to the flame? In: Phylogenetic Methods and the Prehistory of Languages (Forster P, Renfrew C, eds), 91–109. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.Google Scholar
  3. Atkinson QD, Meade A, Venditti C, Greenhill SJ, Pagel M (2008) Languages evolve in punctuational bursts. Science 319: 588.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Atkinson QD, Nicholls G, Welch D, Gray RD (2005) From words to dates: Water into wine, mathemagic or phylogenetic inference? Transactions of the Philological Society 103: 193–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Aunger R, ed (2000) Darwinizing Culture: The Status of Memetics as a Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bakker P (1997) A Language of Our Own: The Genesis of Michif, the Mixed Cree-French Language of the Canadian Metis. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bateman R, Goddard I, O’Grady R, Funk VA, Mooi R, Kress WJ, Cannell P (1990) Speaking of forked tongues: The feasibility of reconciling human phylogeny and the history of language. Current Anthropology 31: 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bellwood P (2005) First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies. Malden: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  9. Bellwood P, Renfrew C, eds (2003) Examining the Farming/Language Dispersal Hypothesis. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.Google Scholar
  10. Bloomfield L (1935) Language. London: Allen and Unwin.Google Scholar
  11. Blust RA (1999) Subgrouping, circularity and extinction: Some issues in Austronesian comparative linguistics. In: Selected Papers from the Eighth International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics (Zeitoun E, Jen-kuei Li P, eds), Vol. 1: 31–94. Tapei, Taiwan: Academia Sinica.Google Scholar
  12. Blust RA (2000) Why lexicostatistics doesn’t work: The ‘universal constant’ hypothesis and the Austronesian language. In: Time Depth in Historical Linguistics (Renfrew C, McMahon A, Trask T, eds), Vol. 2: 311–331. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.Google Scholar
  13. Borgerhoff Mulder M (2001)Using phylogenetically based comparative methods in anthropology: More questions than answers. Evolutionary Anthropology 10: 99–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Borgerhoff Mulder M, Nunn CL, Towner MC (2006) Cultural macroevolution and the transmission of traits. Evolutionary Anthropology 15: 52–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Boucher Y, Douady CJ, Papke RT, Walsh DA, Boudreau MER, Nesbø CL, Case RJ, Doolittle WF (2003) Lateral gene transfer and the origins of prokaryotic groups. Annual Review of Genetics 37: 283–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Boyd R, Borgerhoff Mulder M, Durham WH, Richerson PJ (1997) Are cultural phylogenies possible? In: Human by Nature, Between Biology and the Social Sciences (Weingart P, Richerson PJ, Mitchell SD, Maasen S, eds), 355–386. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  17. Bragg M (2003) The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language. London: Hodder and Stoughton.Google Scholar
  18. Brown DDG, Bick M (1987) Religion, class, and context: Continuities and discontinuities in Brazilian Umbanda. American Ethnologist 14: 73–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Bryant D, Filimon F, Gray RD (2005) Untangling our past: Languages, trees, splits and networks. In: The Evolution of Cultural Diversity: A Phylogenetic Approach (Mace R, Holden CJ, Shennan SJ, eds), 67–83. London: UCL Press.Google Scholar
  20. Bryant D, Moulton V (2002) Neighbor-Net, an agglomerative algorithm for the construction of phylogenetic networks. In: Algorithms in Bioinformatics: Second International Workshop, WABI 2002, Rome, Italy, September 17–21: Proceedings (Guigo R, Gusfield D, eds), 375–391. Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  21. Campbell L (2004) Historical Linguistics. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Carniero RL (2003) Evolutionism in Cultural Anthropology. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  23. Charleston MA (2003) Recent results in cophylogenetic mapping. Advances in Parasitology 54: 303–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Clifford J, Marcus G, eds (1986) Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  25. Collard M, Shennan SJ, Tehrani JJ (2006) Branching versus blending in macroscale cultural evolution: A comparative study. In: Mapping Our Ancestors (Lipo CP, O’Brien MJ, Collard M, Shennan SJ, eds), 53–88. New Brunswick, NJ: Aldine Transaction.Google Scholar
  26. Collard M, Tehrani, J (2005) Phylogenesis versus ethnogenesis in Turkmen cultural evolution. In: The Evolution of Cultural Diversity: A Phylogenetic Approach (Mace R, Holden CJ, Shennan SJ, eds), 109–132. London: UCL Press.Google Scholar
  27. Crowley T (1994) Proto who drank kava? In: Austronesian Terminologies: Continuity and Change (Pawley AK, Ross MD, eds), 87–100. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.Google Scholar
  28. Dagan T, Martin W (2006) The tree of one percent. Genome Biology 7 (10): 118.111–118.117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Dagan T, Martin W (2007) Ancestral genome sizes specify the minimum rate of lateral gene transfer during prokaryote evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104: 870–875.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Darwent J, O’Brien MJ (2006) Using cladistics to construct lineages of projectile points from northeastern Missouri. In: Mapping Our Ancestors: Phylogenetic Approaches in Anthropology and Prehistory (Lipo C, O’Brien MJ, Collard M, Shennan SJ, eds), 185–208. New Brunswick, NJ: Aldine Transactions.Google Scholar
  31. Darwin C (1859) On the Origin of Species. London: Murray.Google Scholar
  32. Darwin C (1871) The Descent of Man. London: Murray.Google Scholar
  33. Day WHE (1986) Analysis of quartet dissimilarity measures between unidirected phylogenetic trees. Systematic Zoology 35: 325–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Dennett DC (1995) Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life. New York: Touchstone.Google Scholar
  35. Diamond J, Bellwood P (2003) Farmers and their languages: The first expansions. Science 300: 597–603.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Drummond AJ, Ho SYW, Phillips MJ, Rambaut A (2006) Relaxed phylogenetics and dating with confidence. PLoS Biology 4: e88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Dundes A, ed (1989) Little Red Riding Hood: A Casebook. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
  38. Dunning Hotopp JC, Clark ME, Oliveira DCSG, Foster JM, Fischer P, Muñoz Torres MC, Giebel JD, Kumar N, Ishmael N, Wang S, Ingram J, Nene RV, Shepard J, Tomkins J, Richards S, Spiro DJ, Ghedin E, Slatko BE, Tettelin H, Werren JH (2007) Widespread lateral gene transfer from intracellular bacteria to multicellular eukaryotes. Science 317: 1753–1756.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Durie M, Ross M (1996) The Comparative Method Reviewed: Regularity and Irregularity in Language Change. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Ehrman BD (2005) Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. New York: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
  41. Faith DP (1989) Homoplasy as pattern: Multivariate analysis of morphological convergence in Anseriformes. Cladistics 5: 235–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Farris JS, Källersjö M, Kluge AG, Bult, C (1995) Constructing a significance test for incongruence. Systematic Biology 44: 570–572.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Fitch WM (1970) Distinguishing homologous from analogous proteins. Systematic Zoology 19: 99–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Forster P, Renfrew C, eds (2006) Phylogenetic Methods and the Prehistory of Languages. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.Google Scholar
  45. Fortunato L, Holden CJ, Mace R (2006) From bridewealth to dowry? A Bayesian estimation of ancestral states of marriage transfers in Indo-European groups. Human Nature 17: 355–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Fowler CS (1983) Some lexical clues to Uto-Aztecan prehistory. International Journal of American Linguistics 49: 224–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Fracchia J, Lewontin RC (1999) Does culture evolve? History and Theory 38: 52–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Godfrey-Smith P (in press) Darwinian populations and transitions in individuality. In: The Evolutionary Transitions Revisited (Sterelny K, Calcott B, eds). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  49. Gottschall J, Wilson DS, eds (2004) The Literary Animal. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Gould SJ (1987) An Urchin in the Storm. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  51. Gould SJ (1991) Bully for Brontosaurus. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  52. Gould SJ, Lewontin RC (1979) The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A critique of the adaptationism programme. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 205: 581–598.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Gray RD, Atkinson QD (2003) Language-tree divergence times support the Anatolian theory of Indo-European origin. Nature 426: 435–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Gray RD, Jordan FM (2000) Language trees support the express-train sequence of Austronesian expansion. Nature 405: 1052–1055.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Greenhill SJ, Blust R, Gray RD (2003–2007) The Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database. http://language.psy.auckland.ac.nz/
  56. Greenhill SJ, Currie TE, Gray RD (in preparation) The effect of horizontal transmission on cultural phylogenies.Google Scholar
  57. Greenhill SJ, Gray RD (2005) Testing population dispersal hypotheses: Pacific settlement, phylogenetic trees and Austronesian languages. In: The Evolution of Cultural Diversity: A Phylogenetic Approach (Mace R, Holden CJ, Shennan SJ, eds), 31–52. London: UCL Press.Google Scholar
  58. Harvey PH, Pagel M (1991) The Comparative Method in Evolutionary Biology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  59. Hill JH (2001) Proto-Uto-Aztecan: A community of cultivators in central Mexico? American Anthropologist 103: 913–934.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Holden CJ (2002) Bantu language trees reflect the spread of farming across Sub-Saharan Africa: A maximum-parsimony analysis. Proceedings of the Royal Society London B 269: 793–799.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Holden CJ, Mace R (2003) Spread of cattle led to the loss of matrilineal descent in Africa: A coevolutionary hypothesis. Proceedings of the Royal Society London B 270: 2425–2433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Holden CJ, Mace R (2005) The cow is the enemy of matriliny: Using phylogenetic methods to investigate cultural evolution in Africa. In: The Evolution of Cultural Diversity: A Phylogenetic Approach (Mace R, Holden CJ, Shennan SJ, eds), 217–234. London: UCL Press.Google Scholar
  63. Hull DL (1982) The naked meme. In: Learning, Development, and Culture (Plotkin HC, ed), 273–327. Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar
  64. Huelsenbeck JP, Rannala B (1997) Phylogenetic methods come of age: Testing hypotheses in an evolutionary context. Science 276: 227–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Huson DH, Bryant D (2006) Application of phylogenetic networks in evolutionary studies. Molecular Biology and Evolution 23: 254–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Jackson GB, Romney AK (1973) Historical inference from cross-cultural data: The case of dowry. Ethos 1: 517–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Jordan P, Shennan SJ (2005) Cultural transmission in indigenous California. In: The Evolution of Cultural Diversity: A Phylogenetic Approach (Mace R, Holden CJ, Shennan SJ, eds), 133–164. London: UCL Press.Google Scholar
  68. Jordan P, Shennan SJ (2003) Cultural transmission, language and basketry traditions amongst the California Indians. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 22: 42–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Kirch P, Green R (2001) Hawaiki, Ancestral Polynesia: An Essay in Historical Anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Labov W (1994) Principles of Linguistic Change: Internal Factors. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  71. Labov W (2007) Transmission and diffusion. Language 83: 344–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Lester L, Meade A, Pagel M (2005) The slow road to the eukaryotic genome. BioEssays 28: 57–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Lewontin RC (1970) The units of selection. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 1: 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Lipo CP, O’Brien MJ, Collard M, Shennan SJ, eds (2006) Mapping Our Ancestors. New Brunswick and London: Aldine Transactions.Google Scholar
  75. Lynch J (2002) Potent roots and the origin of kava. Oceanic Linguistics 41: 493–513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Mace R, Holden CJ (2005) A phylogenetic approach to cultural evolution. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 20: 116–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Mace R, Holden CJ, Shennan SJ, eds (2005) The Evolution of Cultural Diversity: A Phylogenetic Approach. London: UCL Press.Google Scholar
  78. Mace R, Pagel M (1994) The comparative method in anthropology. Current Anthropology 35: 549–564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Maddison WP (1997) Gene trees in species trees. Systematic Biology 46: 523–536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Mallet J (2005) Hybridization as an invasion of the gene. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 20: 229–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Mallory JP (1989) In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Languages, Archaeology and Myth. London: Thames and Hudson.Google Scholar
  82. Marck J (1996) The first-order anthropomorphic gods of Polynesia. Journal of the Polynesian Society 105: 217–258.Google Scholar
  83. McMahon A, McMahon R (2005) Language Classification By Numbers. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  84. McWhorter J (2001) The Power of Babel. New York: Henry Holt/Times.Google Scholar
  85. Mesoudi A, Whiten A, Laland KN (2004) Perspective: Is human cultural evolution Darwinian? Evidence reviewed from the perspective of The Origin of Species. Evolution 58: 1–11.Google Scholar
  86. Moore JH (1994) Putting anthropology back together again: The ethnogenetic critique of cladistic theory. American Anthropologist 96: 925–948.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Murdock GP (1967) Standard Cross Cultural Sample. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.Google Scholar
  88. Nesse RM, Williams GC (1994) Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine. New York: Times Books.Google Scholar
  89. Nichols J (1992) Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Nunn CL, Borgerhoff Mulder M, Langley S (2006) Comparative methods for studying cultural trait evolution: A simulation study. Cross-Cultural Research 40: 1–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Nylander JAA, Ronquist F, Huelsenbeck JP, Nieves-Aldrey JL (2004) Bayesian phylogenetic analysis of combined data. Systematic Biology 53: 47–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. O’Hara RJ (1988) Homage to Clio, or, toward an historical philosophy for evolutionary biology. Systematic Zoology 37: 142–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Oppenheimer S, Richards M (2001) Slow boat to Melanesia? Nature 410: 166–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Oxford English Dictionary, eds (2000) Oxford English Dictionary Online, 2nd ed 1989. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  95. Page RDM, Charleston MA (1998) Trees within trees: Phylogeny and historical associations. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 13: 356–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Pagel M (1994) Detecting correlated evolution on phylogenies: A general method for the comparative analysis of discrete characters. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 255: 37–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Pagel M (1999) Inferring the historical patterns of biological evolution. Nature 401: 877–884.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Pagel M, Atkinson QD, Meade A (2007) Frequency of word-use predicts rates of lexical evolution throughout Indo-European history. Nature 449: 717–720.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Pagel M, Meade A (2004) A phylogenetic mixture model for detecting pattern-heterogeneity in gene sequence or character-state data. Systematic Biology 53: 571–581.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  100. Pagel M, Meade A, Barker D (2004) Bayesian estimation of ancestral character states on phylogenies. Systematic Biology 53: 673–684.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  101. Poole AM, Penny D (2006) Evaluating hypotheses for the origin of eukaryotes. BioEssays 29: 74–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  102. Ross M (1996) Contact-induced change and the comparative method: Cases from Papua New Guinea. In: The Comparative Method Reviewed: Regularity and Irregularity in Language Change (Durie M, Ross M, eds), 180–217. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  103. Ross M (1997) Social networks and kinds of speech-community event. In: Archaeology and Language: Theoretical and Methodological Orientations (Blench R, Spriggs M, eds), Vol 1: 209–261. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  104. Sanderson MJ (2002) Estimating absolute rates of evolution and divergence times: A penalized likelihood approach. Molecular Biology and Evolution 19: 101–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  105. Spencer M, Davidson EA, Barbrook AC, Howe CJ (2004) Phylogenies of artificial manuscripts. Journal of Theoretical Biology 227: 503–511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  106. Sterelny K (2001) Niche construction, developmental systems, and the extended replicator In: Cycles of Contingency: Developmental Systems and Evolution (Oyama S, Griffiths PE, Gray RD, eds), 333–349. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  107. Sterelny K (2006a) The evolution and evolvability of culture. Mind and Language 21: 137–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  108. Sterelny K (2006b) Memes revisited. British Journal of Philosophy of Science 57: 145–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  109. Suchard MA, Kitchen CM, Sinsheimer JS, Weiss RE (2003) Hierarchical phylogenetic models for analyzing multipartite sequence data. Systematic Biology 51: 649–664.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  110. Swadesh M (1952) Lexico-statistic dating of prehistoric ethnic contacts. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 96: 453–463.Google Scholar
  111. Swadesh M (1955) Towards greater accuracy in lexicostatistic dating. International Journal of American Linguistics 21: 121–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  112. Tëmkin I, Eldredge N (2007) Phylogenetics and material cultural evolution. Current Anthropology48: 146–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  113. Terrell JE (1988) History as a family tree, history as an entangled bank: Constructing images and interpretations of prehistory in the South Pacific. Antiquity 62: 642–657.Google Scholar
  114. Terrell JE, Kelly KM, Rainbird R (2001) Foregone conclusions? In search of “Papuans” and “Austronesians”. Current Anthropology 42: 97–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  115. Thomason S, Kaufman T (1988) Language Contact, Creolization, and Genetic Linguistics. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  116. Zipes JD (2006) Why Fairytales Stick: The Evolution and Relevance of a Genre. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Russell D. Gray
    • 1
  • Simon J. Greenhill
    • 1
  • Robert M. Ross
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations