"The question I pose is whether historians and social scientists have much to gain from models of cultural evolution that treat cultural change as a kind of selection process. Can such models provide a unifying paradigm for the social sciences that plays the same role in the study of human culture that models of biological evolution play in biology as a whole?
As an explanatory theory of human behavior, dynamical models of cultural evolution and social learning hold more promise of success than models based on rational choice. Under the right conditions, evolutionary models supply a rationale for Nash equilibrium that rational choice theory is hard pressed to deliver. Furthermore, in cases with multiple symmetrical Nash equilibria, the dynamic models offer a plausible, historically path-dependent model of equilibrium selection. In conditions, such as those of correlated encounters, where the evolutionary dynamic theory is structurally at odds with the rational choice theory, the evolutionary theory provides the best account of human behavior."
Some useful distinctions follow below.
Human Social and Cultural Evolution
Students of animal behavior have often assumed that most changes across generations are largely genetically based and hence that populations and genes change by processes of natural and sexual selection. Sociality (communication!) and the advent of culture introduce an additional, novel mode of transmission of behavioral traits between generations. Most theorists of cultural evolution hold that many behavioral changes in humans have a large non-genetic component that arises from such cultural transmission of information.
The interdisciplinary study of the relationships between the human species and its environment. Whereas primitive humans became a dominant species in local ecosystems, modern technological society is part of a global system of production and consumption, and an agent of worldwide dispersion of animals, plants, and microorganisms. The impact of humankind upon the Earth has been uniquely responsible for profound changes. But while Homo sapiens is not the only animal capable of changing the physical and biotic environments, she is the only one capable of understanding and preserving the biosphere.
There has been considerable evolution in thinking about human ecology in the literature and among educationalists in the last three decades. With increasing emphasis being laid on the social and economic dimensions of environmental problems, particularly since the advent of Agenda 21, and increasing interest in sustainable development in the wake of the UNCED conference in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the need for an interdisciplinary approach to environmental management has become widely accepted. Environmental security and the contextualisation of urbanisation problems, to mention some further examples, can be understood only by a transdisciplinary scientific approach that overcomes traditional barriers between different disciplines.
Human Behavioral Ecology (HBE)
The branch of evolutionary ecology concerned with tracing the link between ecological factors and adaptive behavior (Krebs and Davies 1997). Human behavioral ecologists hold that behavioral diversity is largely a result of diversity in the contemporary socioecological environment; that adaptive relationships between behavior and environment may arise from many different mechanisms (they are generally agnostic about mechanisms, e.g., cognitive modularity); and that humans are likely to be well-adapted to most features of contemporary environments.
Evolutionary Psychology (EP)
EP was articulated in the wake of human sociobiology's unsuccessful attempts (most notably, Lumsden/Wilson 1981) to come to grips with gene-culture coevolution. Its goal is to uncover "the psychological mechanisms that underpin human … behavior, and … the selective forces that shaped those mechanisms" (Donald Symons). Its key assumptions are, in Eric Alden Smith's accurate summary, modularity (human behavior is guided by specialized cognitive mechanisms performing specialized tasks); historicity (natural selection shaped those modules to produce adaptive behavior in the paleolithic EEA or "environment of evolutionary adaptedmess"); adaptive specificity (adaptive outcomes, e.g., mate preference, are very specific); and environmental novelty (modern environments are characterized by an unprecedented degree of novelty). From these assumptions, EP deduces that valid adaptive explanations must refer to genetically evolved psychological mechanisms linked to specific features of the EEA; that "culture," "learning," "rational choice," and "fitness maximization" are insufficiently modular to be explanatorily realistic mechanisms, whether cognitive or behavioral; that contemporary human behavior may often be maladaptive; and that measuring fitness outcomes or correlates of contemporary behavioral patterns is irrelevant.
Dual Inheritance Theory (DIT)
Studies that regard culture and genes as providing separate but linked systems of inheritance, variation, and fitness effects, and hence of distinct but interacting evolutionary change. Dual inheritance theorists accept that since culture exhibits the three characteristics required for evolution by natural selection — variation, heritability, and fitness effects — cultural evolution can be analyzed in a neo-Darwinian fashion. However, since cultural inheritance differs from genetic inheritance in fundamental ways — including non-parental transmission and multiple transmission events over a lifetime — they tend to view the evolutionary dynamics of culture as different from biological evolution. Also, for them, genetically nonadaptive cultural evolution is not only possible, but even likely if the differences referred to are most marked, such as in modern bureaucratic societies.
Not much of substance here to be talked about yet!
Eric Alden Smith, Three styles in the evolutionary study of human behavior, 2000
Human Ecology Department, Vrije Universiteit Brussel: What is human ecology?
Buss, The Evolution of Desire, 1994
Dennett, Darwin's Dangerous Idea, 1995
Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, 1976
Cronk/Chagnon/Irons, Adaptation and Human Behavior, 2000
Ziman, Technological Innovation as an Evolutionary Process, 2000
Carson/Rothstein, Behavioral Genetics, 1999
Sykes, The Human Inheritance, 1999
Weingart/Mitchell/Richerson/Maasen, Human by Nature, 1997
Maschner, Darwinian Archaeologies, 1996
Khalil/Boulding, Evolution, Order and Complexity, 1996
Barkow/Cosmides/Tooby, The Adapted Mind, 1992
Smith/Winterhalder, Evolutionary Ecology and Human Behavior, 1992
Gregory/Silvers/Sutch, Sociobiology and Human Nature, 1978
Ehrlich, Human Natures, 2000
Elster, Strong Feelings, 1999
Sober/Wilson, Unto Others, 1998
Skyrms, Evolution of the Social Contract, 1996
Sperber, Explaining Culture, 1996
Durham, Coevolution, 1991
Daly/Wilson, Homicide, 1988
Boyd/Richerson, Culture and the Evolutionary Process, 1985
Pulliam/Dunford, Programmed to Learn, 1980
Symons, The Evolution of Human Sexuality, 1979
(includes TOCs: June 1998— )
The flagship journal of the American Anthropological Association. Advances the Association's mission through publishing articles that add to, integrate, synthesize, and interpret anthropological knowledge; commentaries and essays on issues of importance to the discipline; and reviews of books, films, sound recordings and exhibits.
A Philosophical Journal for Our Time
Invites essays aimed at contributing toward a restored comprehension of the chief works and arguments of the Western tradition, considered on their own terms. Especially encourages reflection on the relation of the authentic historical legacy to its contemporary post-philosophical critique. Considers relevant to its purpose not only studies of philosophical works in a stricter sense, but also contributions to a clarification in the same spirit of theological, literary, political, scientific and other expressions of the tradition.
Cultural Anthropology (1986– )
(Quarterly.) Journal of the Society for Cultural Anthropology.
As we witness the so-called globalization of the world, culture – paradoxically – continues to play a crucial role in the different domains of the human fabric. Because mainstream anthropology no longer provides satisfying answers, Cultural Dynamics offers an international forum for discussing the issue of culture from a thoroughly interdisciplinary and cross-cultural background and actively promotes the development of non-western theoretical perspectives. The journal moves well beyond cultural and social anthropology to include work from sociology, psychology, philosophy, communication studies and any other discipline that focuses on socio-cultural phenomena. It offers both empirical and theoretical contributions that shed light on the dynamic of culture in major areas of research and debate around the world.
Current Anthropology (CA)(1960— )
(5 times a year; available online since December 1999; University of Chicago Press.) A transnational journal devoted to research on humankind, encompassing the full range of anthropological scholarship on human cultures and on the human and other primate species. Communicating across the subfields, the journal features papers in a wide variety of areas, including social, cultural, and physical anthropology as well as ethnology and ethnohistory, archaeology and prehistory, folklore, and linguistics.
Evolution and Human Behavior
[Formerly Ethology and Sociobiology.]
(Bi-monthly; Elsevier.) Official journal of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society. An interdisciplinary journal presenting research reports and theory in which evolutionary perspectives are brought to bear on the study of human behavior. It is primarily a scientific journal, but submissions from scholars in the humanities are also encouraged. Papers reporting on theoretical and empirical work on other species will be welcome if their relevance to the human animal is apparent.
(Quarterly; Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico.)
Journal of Cognition and Culture (2001— )
(Quarterly; Brill.) Provides a forum for the emerging field of cognitive accounts of cultural phenomena and investigations of cultural phenomena that reveal human cognitive regularities. The editors welcome contributions from experimental psychology, developmental psychology, social cognition, neuroscience, human evolution and cognitive anthropology. Cross-cultural studies that emphasize cross-cultural regularities are also encouraged. The primary focus of the journal is on explanations of cultural phenomena in terms of acquisition, representation and transmission involving common cognitive capacities without excluding the study of cultural differences. Of particular interest are empirical contributions to the field, but the editors will also entertain the publication of articles of a more general nature including critical approaches.
(Electronic.) Seeks to develop the memetic perspective, with space devoted to relevant evolutionary issues and other related topics. We seek to discuss issues concerning memetics such as mechanisms involved in evolutionary processes (comparisons of different models of evolution are especially welcome); philosophical or theoretical issues concerning epistemology and evolution; boundaries of the evolutionary approach; empirical research; fundamental approaches aiming at structuring the field of memetics as a science. Like other journals, the journal of memetics will only publish papers after they have been approved by peer-review. In order to organize this we have an editorial board with reviewers, and an advisory board.
(3 issues per year; self-published, refereed, electronic journal.) The main editorial goal is to develop and disseminate scholarly research on topics that are relevant to the analysis of world-systems. Especially wants to include works that proceed from several different theoretical stances and disciplines. These include, but are not limited to, civilizationists, evolutionary approaches, international political economy, comparative, historical and cultural analysis. Seeks the work of political scientists, historians, sociologists, ethnographers, archaeologists, economists and geographers. Especially encourages works that take theory seriously by confronting problems of conceptualization and making definitions of concepts explicit, by formulating hypotheses, constructing axiomatic theories and causal models. Theoretical research programs that combine theory construction with comparative research are badly needed to take the world-systems approach beyond the stage of a perspective. Encourages the application of comparative, quantititave and network-analytic methods to world-systems research, but also publishes pieces that do not use these methods. Any empirical study that is deemed relevant to world-systems analysis may be published even if it uses a very different conceptual framework. Also wants to publish discussions of future trajectories and options for the modern world-system and considerations of what can be done to create a more humane, peaceful and just world society.
(Sage.) A forum for research in social anthropology, sociology of science, social psychology and sociological theory. The journal is written in both English and French.
(Quarterly.) A scholarly journal dedicated to the historical study of technology in its relationships with society and culture. Although we are a journal of history, we incline toward an interdisciplinary view; we publish the work of historians, anthropologists, engineers, scientists, museum curators, archivists, sociologists, and others, on topics ranging from architecture to agriculture to aeronautics. And we are an international journal, with a significant number of contributors and subscribers from outside the United States.
American Anthropological Association (AAA) (1902—)
An interdisciplinary, international society of researchers, primarily from the social and biological sciences, who use evolutionary theory to discover human nature — including evolved cognitive, behavioral, emotional and sexual adaptations.
Promotes ethological perspectives in the study of humans worldwide. Encourages empirical work in all fields of human behavior using the full range of methods developed in biology and the human behavioral sciences and operating within the conceptual framework provided by evolutionary theory.
A broad, multidisciplinary organization of individuals interested in cultural, psychological, and social interrelations at all levels.
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig, Germany)
The institute is multidisciplinary, bringing together scientists from a number of different disciplines to study human activity within a broadly evolutionary framework. Currently the institute comprises four research groups: primatology; linguistics; evolutionary genetics; developmental and comparative psychology.
A research tool for exploring the relevance of the study of human cognition to literary and cultural studies.
Places to study Evolutionary Anthropology
Network on Norms and Preferences
(Robert Boyd, Herbert Gintis)
(Alternatively referred to as Norms and Preferences Network.) Works on extending and modifying the rational actor model in economic theory. Experimental economics, game theory, neuroscience, and evolutionary biology/psychology are among the tools used.
An electronic conferencing network and information source for scholars and researchers who are studying world-systems. The purpose of WSN is to facilitate the sharing of information about research, data, publications, announcements, meetings, syllabi, commentary, book reviews, scuttlebutt, etc. [Subscription required.]