Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Mark Pagel - resources

Mark's latest work examines the parallels between linguistic and biological evolution by applying methods of phylogenetics, or the study of evolutionary relatedness among groups, essentially viewing language as a culturally transmitted replicator with many of the same properties we find in genes.

Mark is based in Reading UK. His home page is here.

He's working on a book on the origin of culture called: Wired for Culture - Origins of the Human Social Mind. Amazon say it will be out in early 2012.

There's more from me on this blog about this book here.


Infinite Stupidity - Mark on idea evolution and the domestication of humanity

How language transformed humanity

Language evolution

The Origins of Innovation

The Rise of the Speaking Machine - Human Language Evolution

The Cultural Survival Vehicle

Wired for Culture: The natural history of human cooperation

Group selection debate (no memes)

Cities as gardens (no memes)

Interview: Mark Pagel and the origin of the species

Mark Pagel and Wired for Culture on this blog

I note that Mark isn't technically correct about the role of randomness in cultural evolution in his (interesting) "Infinite Stupidity" video. Cultural evolution can use linear programming, extrapolation and other non-random search techniques for exploring solution space. Mark's idea seems to be Donald Campbell's "Blind Variation and Selective Retention" (BSVR) thesis taken to an unrealistic extreme - though he doesn't cite Campbell, Cziko, or anyone else who has weighed in on this issue.


  1. "..though he doesn't cite Campbell, Cziko, or anyone else who was weighed in on this issue." He certainly doesn't. He seems to be trying to appear as though he just discovered the ideas of memes and memetic evolution (as described by Dawkins and Blackmore), without using the actual words or any references. Am I missing something, or is this a crude attempt at really creepy intellectual thievery?

  2. I'm more inclined to roll out the welcome mat to Mark. To get this thing to happen we need the social scientists and the evolutionary biologists on board. Evolutionary biologists *should* be easier - since cultural evolution is in their interests, and it's just that far too many of them are ignorant about it. From this perspective, Mark looks more like a (relatively) early adopter than someone trailing along behind. I nominate textbook author Mark Ridley as the evolutionary biologist most needing of a "cultural" revelation. He has put bullshit about the topic in his "Evolution" textbook - and so is misleading a whole generation of students.