Human evolution and confusion

Michael Forstadt (forstadt@HUSC.HARVARD.EDU)
Sun, 13 Feb 1994 19:13:23 -0500

My previous posting has caused seeker1 to respond to me in private (?);
He seems to assume (wrongly) that I am in favor of censoring his ideas.
Although it certainly may be true that I do not share his thoughts on the
processes governing cultural evolution or the utility of the new
"paradigm" of CyberAnthropology, I remain thankful that his postings keep
getting through and giving me material upon which to comment. He writes:

>Memetics is not a "cultural evolutionary" model, and it has
>nothing to do with Darwinism or Spencerism. It *may* be able to
>explain *some* kinds of cultural change, whether 'evolutionary'
>or 'retrogressive'. I make no more substantial claim than that.

I know that memetics was not intended to be viewed as a "cultural
evolutionary model," but (as I understand it) it is being proposed as an
analogue for genetics, which can best be described as an evolutionary
*mechanism*. HOWEVER, what exactly does seeker1 **MEAN** in the paragraph
above?? What exactly does memetics explicitly seek to explain, if
anything at all? Or is it just so much unnecessary static which
intentionally or unintentionally obfuscates the debate on cultural
evolution? A further point of confusion is seen in Mizrach's typology of
culture change (evolutionary vs. retrogressive). If evolution is seen by
Mizrach to be the opposite of retrogression, then I have some very
serious problems with his definition of evolution. On the other hand,
Spencer, Morgan, Tylor, and White might be quite comfortable discussing
social philosophy with Mr. Mizrach. Seeker1 continues:

>If you are stating (I think you are) that cyberanthropology is
>not a 'scholarly contribution,' (and I suppose memetics is not
>either), I guess this is starting to move back toward an earlier
>thread on 'what is scholarly discussion?' Maybe.

I never lowered this debate to such an level as to *suggest* that
cyberanthropology and/or memetics were not serious scholarly pursuits. In
fact, I specifically made mention of "the scholarly contributions of Mr.
Mizrach" in my original posting. If seeker1 was able to discern that my
tongue was firmly lodged in my cheek at the time I first typed out the
above quote, that may be due either to paranoia or to an incredible power
of perception on his part. I won't reveal which one it is.

Finally, I doubt that any response to this posting possibly exists that
cannot be shared by all the other members of this list.
Mike Forstadt
Department of Anthropology
H. University