Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Helena Cronin: flat denial of cultural evolution

One of the most outrageous comments on Steven Pinker's misinformed anti-group selection rant came from Helena Cronin.

Helena Cronin once wrote the nice book The Ant And The Peacock, which included somne positive comments about memes. However, now we have this:

The eminent philosopher sat frozen in horror, forkful of lunch poised between plate and mouth. What enormity had caused the shock? The conversation had turned to cultural evolution. And I had suggested that there is no such thing. There's culture; there's history; there's change; there's progress; there's technological innovation; there's growth of knowledge; there's social learning; and there's lots more. But there's no cultural evolution.

It's flat denial of the large literature on cultural evolution. Helena Cronin obviously doesn't have a clue what she is talking about.

These days, it's rather weird for me to think of this parallel universe which some evolutionary biologists inhabit - where culture doesn't evolve. I think some of these folk still need to get on the internet and read up about the topic before opening their mouths.


  1. Cultures begin with intelligent design (some smart guy creates the culture) and then devolve into oblivion. Then another smart guy comes and creates a new culture, and it too devolves into oblivion because the people who inherit it aren't as smart as its creator. Cultures don't evolve--they degenerate, de-evolve.

  2. Furthermore, memes are a degeneration of culture, as anyone who's ever been to Ebaumsworld knows. Memes don't evolve culture -- they destroy it.