Unnatural Selection Seminar

Here is the audio from the Unnatural Selection seminar.

It was wonderful to see so many people there, and I am enormously grateful to all those who attended.

Many many thanks to Samir Okasha (Bristol University) and Clive Cazeaux (Cardiff Met), for speaking at the event.

Many thanks to the Arts Council of Wales for funding the whole project, and of course many thanks to milkwood for hosting the exhibition and this event.

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As is typical I found myself awake at 3am the night after thinking I wish I had asked that…

So, here also is a little post seminar discussion…

One of the things that I wish I had asked Samir was what made a cultural practice sucessful? Is it the benefits it infers on a biological group, making cultural evolution secondary to biological evolution or is it simply the speed and reliability with which a cultural practice can be copied from person to person? In the later case, cultural practices are capable of evolving independently of biological evolution. So, although, the origins of the practices may lie in our behaviour we can not directly effect them. This of course has implications for free will.

Below is Samir’s e-mail response…

“I think that the early versions of cultural evolution (memes etc.) tended to present memes almost as if they were ‘alive’, and ‘parasitising’ the mind, but this idea has been quietly abandoned in the more recent discussions. I think the state of the art on cultural evolution is found in Boyd and Richerson’s book ‘Not by Genes Alone’, which I highly recommend.

Also, Bowles and Gintis have recently written a book, that I am in the middle of reviewing, called ‘A Cooperative Species’, which develops gene-culture coevolution in a sophisticated way. (Quite a bit of maths in this book though.)
I do think that Blackmore, and others like Dennett, took the ‘meme’ idea to an extreme and favoured rhetoric over serious science.
As I see it, the later theories such as Boyd and Richerson’s improve on the original ‘meme’ idea partly by not insisting on such a tight parallel between memes and genes, partly moving beyond the naive idea that ‘imitation’, in the literal sense, is the only mechanism by which cultural ideas and practices can spread, partly by developing explicit models of cultural evolution, and most of all by using extensive anthropological data sets to inject some empirical content.”

Once again many thanks Samir.

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About Phil Lambert

Visual artist based in Cardiff
This entry was posted in exhibitions, Text based entries, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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