Paris, California and the quest for a theory of cultural change

Lorenzo Baravalle

Abstract


The debate on the possibility of an evolutionary theory of cultural change has heated up, over the last years, due to the supposed incompatibilities between the two main theoretical proposals in the field: dual inheritance theory and cultural epidemiology. The former, first formulated in the 1980’s by a group of biologists and anthropologists mostly hosted at Californian universities, supports an analogy between genetic inheritance and cultural transmission. Cultural epidemiology, more recently formulated by Dan Sperber and his collaborator (mostly hosted at Parisian universities), denies the defensibility of such an analogy and put forward a partially alternative model. But how much do these proposals actually differ with each other? In this article, I shall argue that less than what cultural epidemiologists use to think.


Keywords


cultural evolution; population genetics; epidemiology; cultural attractors; levels of causation

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.22370/rhv2019iss14pp223-240

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