In 2012, Steven Pinker asked:
Does Cultural Group Selection Add Anything to Conventional History?
In 2015, Richard Lewontin asked:
Why do you use cultural evolution instead of cultural history? Why evolution instead of history?
To me these are odd questions to ask - but I think there are reasonable answers:
- The term "history" has traditionally referred to human evolution after the invention of writing. By contrast, cultural evolution goes back many millions of years and also applies to non-human animals.
- The term "evolution" conjures up Darwin's famous explanation of how evolution operates. The term "history" fails to do this. The association is appropriate.
- History has traditionally been studied as part of the humanities. The humanities have historically been characterized by poor quality scientific traditions. In particular, historians widely rejected theory, picturing theories as preconceptions which could distort the facts. As a result, history increasingly turned into a fact-gathering exercise. This is, of course, not a scientific approach to the topic. As a result, many scientists don't want to associate themselves with historians. The historians dirtied their own nest, and many scientists don't want to be tainted by their stench.