Thursday, January 24, 2013

A field guide

I’ve spent a couple of days searching for people who are interested in actual cultural evolution; like discussing human culture in the (hypothetical but strongly arguable) light of being an evolving process, analogous to biological life.  I am looking for a cooperative forum where such necessities as taxonomy, scale, calibration can be discussed, as a  pre-conditon for developing a natural history of culture.  Think of an ornithological field guide, with pictures and diagrams to enable bird recognition.  What equivalent do we have for cultural evolution?  Nothing yet.  The meme thing is not just dysfunctional, it’s counterfunctional.  Nobody has the slightest idea what a meme is (well, “mirror neurones”, but in the context of the cerebral cortex and all that goes on there that we traditionally characterise as thought and memory, identifying mirror neurones explains nothing).  An end to memes!
We need some hard work.  Cultural evolutionists spend their time in all sorts of ventures, arguing with creationists (redundant), formulating theories like the place of warfare in the evolution of ultrasociability (interesting, but totally unscientific until we have some sort of finer calibrated system for looking at culture).  Where’s anybody doing any work on the basic stuff (apart from at the Royal Society, Stringer, Whiten &c)?
We need a bird book.  But before you have a bird book you have to know what a bird looks like.  Fill it up with cows, bacteria, dinosaurs, angels, and it’s kind of rather lost the point.

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