Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Is human cultural evolution Darwinian? Evidence reviewed from the perspective of 'The Origin of Species'

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The claim that human culture evolves through the differential adoption of cultural variants, in a manner analogous to the evolution of biological species, has been greeted with much resistance and confusion. Here we demonstrate that as compelling a case can now be made that cultural evolution has key Darwinian properties, as Darwin himself presented for biological evolution in The Origin of Species. Culture is shown to exhibit variation, competition, inheritance, and the accumulation of successive cultural modifications over time. Adaptation, convergence, and the loss or change of function can also be identified in culture. Just as Darwin knew nothing of genes or particulate inheritance, a case for Darwinian cultural evolution can be made irrespective of whether unitary cultural replicators exist or whether cultural transmission mechanisms are well understood.

Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalEvolution
Volume58
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2004

    Research areas

  • cultural evolution, cultural transmission, human culture, Lamarckian inheritance, memes, natural selection, The Origin of Species, CHIMPANZEES PAN-TROGLODYTES, CHILDREN HOMO-SAPIENS, TRANSMISSION, SELECTION

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. The reach of gene-culture coevolution in animals

    Whitehead, H., Laland, K. N., Rendell, L., Thorogood, R. & Whiten, A., 3 Jun 2019, In: Nature Communications. 10, 10 p., 2405.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

  2. The extension of biology through culture

    Whiten, A., Ayala, F., Feldman, M. W. & Laland, K. N., 25 Jul 2017, In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 114, 30, p. 7775-7781 7 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  3. A deepening understanding of animal culture suggests lessons for conservation

    Brakes, P., Carroll, E. L., Dall, S., Keith, S., McGregor, P., Mesnick, S., Noad, M., Rendell, L., Robbins, M., Rutz, C., Thorton, A., Whiten, A., Whiting, M., Aplin, L., Bearhop, S., Ciucci, P., Fishlock, V., Ford, J., Notarbartolo di Sciara, G., Simmonds, M. & 5 others, Spina, F., Wade, P., Whithead, H., Williams, J. & Garland, E. C., 28 Apr 2021, In: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 288, 1949, 10 p., 20202718.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

  4. The psychological reach of culture in animals’ lives

    Whiten, A., 27 Apr 2021, In: Current Directions in Psychological Science. OnlineFirst

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  5. The burgeoning reach of animal culture

    Whiten, A., 2 Apr 2021, In: Science. 372, 6537, eabe6514.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Related by journal

  1. Evolution (Journal)

    Michael Blair Morrissey (Member of editorial board)

    1 Jan 2018

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPeer review of manuscripts

  2. Evolution (Journal)

    Michael Blair Morrissey (Member of editorial board)

    1 Jan 20181 Jan 2021

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditor of research journal

  3. Evolution (Journal)

    Thomas Robert Meagher (Editor)

    2006 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditor of research journal

Related by journal

  1. Juvenile social experience and practice have a switch-like influence on adult mate preferences in an insect

    Desjonquères, C., Maliszewski, J. & Rodríguez, R. L., 15 Feb 2021, In: Evolution.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  2. Sex, males, and hermaphrodites in the scale insect Icerya purchasi

    Mongue, A., Michaelides, S., Coombe, O., Tena, A., Kim, D-S., Normark, B., Gardner, A., Hoddle, M. & Ross, L., 27 Mar 2021, (Accepted/In press) In: Evolution.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  3. Quantifying the causal pathways contributing to natural selection

    Henshaw, J. M., Morrissey, M. B. & Jones, A. G., 12 Oct 2020, In: Evolution. Early View, 15 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  4. A note on simulating null distributions for G matrix comparisons

    Morrissey, M. B., Hangartner, S. & Monro, K., 22 Oct 2019, In: Evolution. Early View

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  5. Sexual selection in complex communities: integrating interspecific reproductive interference in structured populations

    McDonald, G., Gardner, A. & Pizzari, T., 2 Apr 2019, In: Evolution. Early View, 12 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

ID: 271578

Top