Blute Blog

Blute's blog about evolutionary theory: biological, sociocultural and gene-culture.

Ruse and the Direction of the Biological & Cultural Evolution Analogy

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Michael Ruse, the distinguished philosopher of Biology kindly sent me a copy of his new book, Why We Hate: Understanding the Roots of Human Conflict after I congratulated him on his receipt of ISHPSSB’s David L. Hull prize. We were old acquaintances from his time at the University of Guelph in Ontario before he left for Florida State University. In his new book he mostly links why we hate to the coming of agriculture which mostly makes sense to me. On the other hand, I can imagine when some foraging groups travelled through a familiar landscape on a route timed to when and where particular resources were expected to become available, that they might have encountered each other at a point utilized by two groups and came into conflict, even violence there. I suppose we will never know.

Meanwhile, that is not the point of this post. I also went back and reread his 2017 book Simply Darwin in a Great Lives series which was on my shelf and it reminded me of something that I knew but had forgotten. Beginning roughly in the last quarter of the 20the century, there has been an explosion of work in almost all of the social sciences arguing that culture changes by processes essentially analogous to those of biological evolution. Ruse’s book reminded me that Darwin used the concept of artificial selection to explain to readers (and perhaps to himself) the concept of natural selection. But what exerts artificial selection except the beliefs and values i.e. the culture of human groups small and large – preferences for large plants and animals in farming and animal husbandry for example. So the question arises, was the origin of the analogy between the two forms of evolution the cultural to the biological rather than the biological to the cultural in the first place?

Written by Marion Blute

February 8, 2023 at 4:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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