Evolutionary Epistemology

Review - Genes, Memes and Human History

Review - Darwin Machines and the Nature of Kowledge

Review - The Meme Machine

A Layman's Guide to Evolutionary Economics

Evolutionary Psychology Overview

Evolutionary Psychology Primer

Evolutionary Psychology link

  

Universal Darwinism and Culture

Darwinian explanations for the evolution of cultural processes are relatively new. Scientific attempts to extend Darwin's theory to explanations  of design outside of biology were limited until the 1970s although many unscientific attempts, such as Social Darwinism, were made. An explosion of fecund thinking in the mid 1970s founded several schools of evolutionary thought applied to human behaviour and culture. Evolutionary Epistemology, the study of the evolution of knowledge, was founded in 1976 with D.T. Campbell's critique of the work of the 20th century's leading philosopher of science Karl Popper. In 1975 E.O. Wilson published Sociobioloby: The New Synthesis relating social behaviour to genetic evolution. In subsequent works he developed a theory of cultural coevolution tying human culture to both genetic and cultural evolution. Richard Dawkin's 1996 work, The Selfish Gene, devotes its last chapter, Memes: the new replicator, to an introduction of the theory of memetics. Memetics, explains cultural evolution in terms of memes; cultural Darwinian replicators. It has grown to be an especially active area of research.

Since the establishment of these seminal works the use of Darwin's Idea to explain the evolution of human affairs has mushroomed. Today memetics, cultural coevolution, evolutionary psychology, evolutionary archeology, evolutionary epistemology and evolutionary economics are but a few of the many active areas of research. 

While there is little consensus in the research community as to details of the mechanisms involved, outside of a general agreement on the central role of Darwinian processes, this is a very healthy process. There is a lot of variation in the explanations proposed and those explanations that best fit the evidence that is rapidly accumulating due to efforts of these researchers will come to dominate and form the basis for further advances in our understanding. Universal Darwinism, like all of science, is  an evolving body of knowledge.

The links on the left connect to a sampling of content from the various schools of thought regarding cultural evolution.