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Journal Article

Darwinian Selection, Symbolic Variation, and the Evolution of Culture [and Comments and Reply]

David Rindos, Robert L. Carneiro, Eugene Cooper, Paul Drechsel, Robert C. Dunnell, R. F. Ellen, C. J. M. R. Gullick, Robert A. Hackenberg, John Hartung, John H. Kunkel, Gifford S. Nickerson, Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd
Current Anthropology
Vol. 26, No. 1 (Feb., 1985), pp. 65-88
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2742998
Page Count: 24
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Darwinian Selection, Symbolic Variation, and the Evolution of Culture [and Comments and Reply]
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Abstract

Most contemporary models of cultural change are derived from pre-Darwinian, especially Spencerian, sources and are conditioned by such unstated assumptions as typological thinking and a belief in directed, adaptive variation. This paper defends a Darwinian selectionist approach to cultural evolution. Darwinian selectionism requires undirected, heritable variation. Selection acts upon variants that are not preferentially oriented to or generated with respect to selection; evolution is the result of the selection of "randomly" generated variants. The symbolic aspects of human culture provide the type of variation required for a Darwinian cultural evolution; this system is not analogous but functionally equivalent to the genotype. Two interacting facets of cultural selection, demic and internal, are proposed. Finally, it is suggested that the genetic capacity for culture evolved by "dragging down" the fitness of noncultural forms of behavior determination.

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