Thursday, 18 October 2012

Jonathan Marks and the view from anthropology

Confused critic of cultural evolution Jonathan Marks penned this article in the journal Evolutionary Anthropology, reviewing several of the recent books in the area. It's called Recent Advances in Culturomics [sic].

For Jonathan Marks's previous efforts in the area see here.

I agree with Marks about at least one thing - there's too much "bean bag genetics" in cultural evolution - and not enough understanding of the role of symbiosis - mirroring the situation of organic evolutionary theory between 1930 and 1980. Marks attributes this trait to memetics - which ironically seems to be the most symbiosis-aware strain of cultural evolution to me.

The rest of the article is painful reading for cultural evolution enthusiasts. Not because it makes good points, but because arrogance and confusion don't mix well.

The rest of Evolutionary Anthropology is also a pretty strange place. As with many of those concerned with human evolution, it seems to be preoccupied with the distant past. There's an awful lot of modern data on human cultural evolution that not enough people seem to be looking at.

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