Re: SoCalic Biophobia

Fri, 9 Dec 1994 09:50:14 CST

On Fri, 9 Dec 1994 01:54:34 +0000 Steve Mizrach said:
>And, I would add, perhaps once again out of my own sense of meaningful
>difference, their MEMETIC materials also. (Oh crap. I'm opening the MEMES
>can of worms again. Are any sociobio types going to stand up FOR memetics
>this time?)

I think it's fair to say that memetics, or cultural transmission theory,
or dual inheritance theory, or evolutionary culture theory, or whatever
you want to call it, is now incorporated into the standard body of
theory being used by most of those of us who study behavior using
evolutionary biological models. Evidence for this comes from the fact
that some of the main theorists in this area (e.g., Boyd and Richerson)
routinely attend and give papers at the annual meetings of the Human
Behavior and Evolution Society and the fact that their work is now
routinely included in collections on human behavior and evolution (e.g.,
Smith and Winterhalder's edited volume, _Human Evolutionary Ecology_).
My own favorite book on that topic is also the most recent, William
Durham's _Coevolution: Genes, Culture, and Human Diversity_ (1991,
Stanford University Press). I think he does a good job of sorting
through the various approaches to "memetics," and comes to a position
that I find very sensible and useful, and he also includes a lot of
examples that clarify his thinking and make a good case for the
usefulness of his approach. The debate among we evolution and behavior
types over memetics these days is not so much over whether or not
some sort of theory is needed on this topic (although there are more
than a few holdouts who reject the approach), but on how much such
an approach can explain, how useful it might be, and how much
emphasis should be given it. I would prefer for those sorts of issues
to be decided empirically.


Lee Cronk
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX 77843-4352
Office: 409-847-9254
Fax: 409-845-4070