Re: Social Evolution

Dave Rindos (arkeo4@UNIWA.UWA.EDU.AU)
Mon, 16 May 1994 08:39:04 +0800

Tracy Brown and Dave Rindos and Tracy Brown have been writing:

> If by evolution, you mean change (as you explain below), then I would
> obviously agree that there has been social evolution.

No. Change is NOT the same as evolution. Social change *could* arise by
means of a large number of processes, the vast majority of which would NOT
properly be called processes which result in "evolution." Let us take a
structuralist view (fer instance). Here, a recasting of inherent "laws"
of human throught and behaviour lead to a VERY different kind of change
than evolution. In fact, the vast majority of anthropological theories
deal with change and its explaination in totally non-evolutionary manners.

> > > I find the whole idea of social evolution questionable at
> > > best, especially if by evolution we mean progress.
> > ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> This was meant to be a big "if." I never said that all people interested in
> culture change hold this to be true.

Sorry.... I confess I must have misread the "especially if" in this
context. My reading was "social evolution is questionable at best and
that this becomes especially true when progress is invoked."
Ascii-speak DOES have problems like this at times :{)

> I know evolution has nothing to do with progress, I was just wondering
> if everyone else understood that. As for the last statement: finding a
> concept questionable tells us that its factuality is doubtful.

> I never said the theory of BIOLOGICAL evolution was questionable. I
> only claimed that a theory of cultural change that involved some claim to
> progress was questionable.

Well... as a matter'a'fact, even a theory of *biological* evolution which
invoked notions like progress would be questionable (nah, I'm being too
nice -- it would be WRONG!). Hence, the *biological* *evolutionary*
theory which is implicit in statments about Human Big Brains (TM) is QUITE
as wrong as progressivist cultural evolutionary theories. I must confess
a certain amount of amusement (and irony) can be found here -- what I
earlier called the "Humanistic critique" of Darwinian anthropology itself
rests upon, and is justified by, an outdated BIOLOGICAL theory for
evolution! Odd stuff, this culture business...

> > The same is true
> > with CONTEMPORARY cultural evolutionary theorists -- nobody is making the
> > kinds of claims being rejected here (and if they are, they shouldn't be!
> They aren't? Unless I am reading a different Anthro-1 discussion list, it
> seems as though that has been implied in several of the posts here. Which
> answers the next question:
> > Is there ANYBODY on this list who actually SUPPORTS a Spencerian,
> > progressivist, directional, and telelogical 'evolution'?

OK.... raise your hands. How many people on the list think that humans
are at the Top of the Good Old Evolutionary Pile? How many would accept
that cultural change is brought about by emergent, intentional processes?
How important are concepts like "choice" and "will," and even, or better
said, ESPECIALLY "adaptation," in your models for *explaining* cultural
process and change? Be honest, now....


Dave Rindos
20 Herdsmans Parade Wembley WA 6014 AUSTRALIA
Ph:+61 9 387 6281 (GMT+8) FAX:+61 9 386 2760 (USEST+13)
[you may also reach me on]

>God isn't dead... he's merely changed his name to Culture<
>He may be reached via your nearest Anthropology Department<