Sunday, 19 October 2014

Equal time for cultural evolution

Cultural evolution is a neglected runt-child of the scientific establishment. This is - as far as I can tell - the result of ignorance and stupidity. The main culprits are anthropologists. They are the people who study this material in their day jobs. However evolutionists must also accept some of the blame.

For humans, it is often a lot more important and significant to understand cultural evolution than it is to understand organic evolution. Yet most educational efforts devoted to evolution concentrate on organic evolution. Most scientific papers concentrate on organic evolution. The whole topic is insanely biased away from cultural transmission. What people learn in school is blinkered Darwinism. Some of these people grow up into educators and pass their blinkered Darwinism on. The wheel of ignorance rolls down the generations.

To redress this imbalance, I have a modest proposal. I think those teaching evolution - and those studying evolution - should try and split their time equally between the organic and cultural realms. Because we are human beings - and because cultural evolution is so significant for humans, it would actually make sense to have a lot more than 50% of the examples in the cultural realm. Also, there is currently an insane bias away from cultural evolution. To redress this bias, we really need to devote as much energy to cultural evolution as we can. That is what makes this proposal a modest one: I am only asking for 50%.

I think the domain of this proposal should include publicly funded evolutionary science and those in teaching roles relating to evolutionary theory.

As with any such proposal I think there should be consequences for non-compliance. I think these should involve bad reviews, questioning of competence and other types of criticism. Nearer to the bottom of the barrel, there's poking fun and ridicule. The kind of thing we saw in Jerry Coyne on Cultural Evolution: What Does He Know? Looking at the current landscape, these strategies will probably prove necessary. Cultural evolution has been neglected for far too long. It is time to put a stop to the ignorance.

1 comment:

  1. Whenever I see the phrase "a modest proposal" I am inclined to think the author is using satire. You're clearly not, but there was a moment of confusion for me, and your writing here would be a little bit improved if you hadn't used that phrase. This is obviously not intended to be a substantive criticism, just a tiny nitpick.