Tuesday, 12 February 2013

The waves of Darwinism

In Three Waves of Evolutionary Thought, David Sloan Wilson proposes a classification scheme for Darwin's progress:

  • Evolution in the life sciences;
  • Evolution in the human sciences;
  • Evolutionary engineering.
This isn't completely unreasonable, but it seems more regular to me to classify Darwin's progress by application domain:

  • Organic evolution;
  • Cultural evolution;
  • Psychological evolution;
  • Developmental evolution;
  • Physical evolution.
Cultural evolution is what memetics is all about - that's the revolution that's going on now.

Psychological evolution seems to me to be lagging behind cultural evolution. It's the next big domain where Darwinian evolutionary theory will be applied.

Developmental evolution covers psychological evolution, immunological evolution, and other aspects of development.

Physical evolution could be seen as being a synonym for universal Darwinism. It's an umbrella category which includes all evolving phenomena. This seems to have been the area of Darwinism which has proved hardest for people to grasp.


  1. Organisational evolution is subsumed in cultural evolution. There is considerable overlap, but I think that there are factors that set organisations apart from being just culture. These "lifeforms" are following an evolutionary stream often independent of their human hosts.

  2. That mostly goes to the definition of "culture" - an old and controversial topic. I generally favor an umbrella definition that includes technology and artifacts. However, it's true that organizations include humans who also undergo psychological evolution and there's also a kind of genetic evolution as employees come and go. So: organizational evolution is far from pure cultural evolution.

  3. The distinctions between the cultural and the social and the organisational begs questions that I am struggling to formulate. But it returns to culture (f.unit meme) being the schemata of society (f.unit person) structurating into organisations.